Date: 6/5/2002

Community Hospital offers breakthrough treatment for stroke prevention

Community Hospital in Munster, Ind., is pioneering a breakthrough treatment for stroke prevention, using a tiny tool that now has applications for unblocking arteries in the neck in addition to other areas of the body.

The procedure is called carotid stent placement and involves expanding a tiny wire mesh tube called a stent inside the neck’s artery to keep it open, therefore reducing the patient’s chance of stroke. Because the carotid artery feeds blood to the brain, blockages in it can cause a lack of sufficient blood supply to the brain, resulting in a stroke.

Cardiologist S. N. Makam, M.D., wrote the protocol for this procedure and has completed three cases at Community Hospital. Because the procedure is a new application, Makam gained approval to perform it from the hospital’s Institutional Review Board, which oversees research and new protocols at Community Hospital and acts to protect all patients who participate in clinical research programs.

No other Northwest Indiana hospital offers this treatment.

“This is the latest example of how Community Healthcare System remains on the forefront of heart and stroke care. From open heart surgery to newer minimally invasive techniques, Community Healthcare System is forging ahead to offer new treatments and build healthier communities,” says John Gorski, senior vice president of hospital operations for Community Healthcare System. The system encompasses Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.

Stents are not new, but their application in the neck is, which makes this quite significant, Makam says.

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“Many elderly patients are at risk for stroke because their carotid arteries are blocked, yet they are not candidates for the gold standard of treatment, which is surgery,” Makam says. “By using stents in these cases, we are able to offer patients who cannot undergo surgery a minimally invasive procedure that may save their lives.”

Not all patients with blockages in the neck are candidates for stents.

“Carotid stent placement is not the first line of treatment,” Makam says. “Medicines and surgery are still the standard of care, but this provides an important alternative for selective high-risk patients who have no other choice but to live with blockages and the high risk of stroke.”

The risks of undergoing carotid stent placement are the same as with any minimally invasive stent procedure. Patients who undergo carotid stent placement face an additional risk of stroke because the neck’s arteries feed the brain directly. But, Makam noted, patients needing carotid stents already face a risk of stroke that may be greater than the risk incurred during the stent placement procedure.

Stents have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of various clogged vessels throughout the body. Makam and other physicians have been using stents for years in the heart to prevent heart attacks, and in the kidneys to save this valuable organ. Stents also have been used in the gastrointestinal system to keep pathways open.

For more information about stroke prevention or other heart and artery-related health conditions, visit The Heart Center at Community online at or call 219-852-6459, or 800-331-1924.