By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When people enter a clinical trial, they often want the experimental treatment, but that may not always be best.

In fact, researchers looking at stents in the brain for stroke find that people who got these actually did worse.

Of the 451 patients in a nationwide study, those who were randomly assigned to get stents were twice as likely to have a second stroke or die than those treated with medicines only and no stents.

The results were so pronounced, the two-and-a-half year trial was stopped early.

“At this hospital for the last five, 10 years, we’ve been very conservative with these intracranial procedures,” says Dr. Andrew Ku, a neuroradiologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

“We’ve done several, but we’re very, very selective in who we pick. Currently medical therapy is the best therapy.”

The thought was that stents help heart attack patients, so why not stroke patients, too? But that’s not the case.

“Putting a mechanical stent in there is not simple,” he explains. “The blood vessels are several hairpin turns. You’re dealing with patients who are sick – they have bad blood vessels to begin with.”

One of the research sites was at UPMC, but the principal investigator is out of town and not available for an on-camera interview.

While the study is a blow to stents for stroke in the short term, with improvements, there may be a role for them in the future.

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