New devices called stent retrievers have revolutionised the treatment of some stroke patients, according to experts.
Eighty-seven percent of strokes are ischaemic, meaning they are caused by clots that block blood flow to a portion of the brain. In some patients stent retrievers can be used to remove such clots.
A stent retriever is a self-expanding mesh tube attached to a wire, which is guided through a thin tube called a catheter. The surgeon inserts the catheter in an artery in the groin and guides it through various blood vessels all the way up to the brain.
Once the stent retriever reaches the blockage, the surgeon ‘deploys’ it. The device pushes the gelatinous blood clot against the wall of the blood vessel, immediately restoring blood flow. The stent retriever then is used to grab the clot, which is pulled out when the surgeon removes the catheter. Clever…
A clot-busting drug called tPA can restore blood flow and limit stroke damage if it is given within 4.5 hours of the onset of the stroke and the clot is small enough. But in many patients, tPA either would not be safe to take, or would not be sufficient by itself to restore blood flow.