Less intrusive surgery for stroke-risk patients

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am

Doctors have begun offering a new method of treatment for restriction of blood flow in vessels to the head that can result in strokes or death.

The Prince of Wales Hospital announced yesterday it would be offering carotid artery stenting, although it first carried out the procedure two years ago.

Carotid stenosis is the narrowing of any one of four main blood vessels running up through the neck to supply blood to the brain.

Artherosclerosis causes a plaque build-up on the inside of the vessels, restricting blood flow, which can cause disability or death.

Traditionally, blocked carotid arteries were treated using open surgery through the neck involving insertion of an artificial blood vessel. This required general anaesthesia, said Simon Yu Chun-ho, honorary clinical associate professor at Chinese University. It left a scar of up to 7.6cm on the neck and patients ran the risk of facial nerve injury.

Under the new technique, a stent - a mechanism that expands inside the artery and flattens plaque against the artery wall, allowing for increased blood flow - is inserted through a 5cm incision in the patient's thigh, under local anaesthetic.

The procedure takes about two hours and patients must thereafter stay in hospital for two to three days. The cost is about HK$25,000. Some 120 carotid artery stenting procedures have been performed at the hospital since February 2006.

Patient Chan Kin-man underwent both open surgery and the stenting procedure, and said the new procedure was more comfortable.

'I was conscious throughout the two hours and even chatted with the doctors,' Mr Chan said.