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Laser Blasts Blood Clot in 49 Seconds

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Feb. 10, 2000 (New Orleans) -- Welcome to 'Star Wars' medicine. Here a clot that cuts off the blood supply to the brain, causing a massive stroke, is vaporized in just 49 seconds by a tiny laser placed in a catheter that is threaded through the body and up into the carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain. In Portland, Ore., a team of stroke specialists successfully reversed the course of a massive stroke in a 78-year-old woman using this latest high-tech approach.

William M. Clark, MD, associate professor of neurology at Oregon Health Sciences University, reported the successful intervention at a press conference yesterday at the 25th International Stroke Conference. Clark, director of the Oregon Stroke Center, tells WebMD, "I'm convinced that mechanical clot removal is the wave of the future." He says that several types of mechanical clot removal systems -- laser, vacuum removal, and sound wave systems -- are currently being studied and he predicts that "in five years we will be using these systems in clinical practice."

Although he presented very early findings from a laser safety study, Clark says he is also participating in a study of a device called Angio Jett. "This is a very nice device, it shoots out a stream of water, thus creating a vacuum that just sucks the clot right up," he says. Still another mechanical device now undergoing a safety study is a laser that uses a much lower energy but much higher frequency. "It's like using either a big punch or a lot of little jabs to get the job done," he says.

In the study reported yesterday, Clark's team received FDA approval to enroll 12 patients in a safety trial of the LaTIS Neuro Laser Thrombolysis System. The team first identifies and locates a clot using complex X-rays and then "threads the laser catheter from the groin up to the carotid," he says. The laser catheter is first pushed through the clot and then the laser is "fired" as the laser is pulled back through the clot," says Clark. "Using this method we hope to cut down on any possibility that smaller parts of the clot will break off and cause additional damage," he says.

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