New Brain Stent Opens Blocked Arteries
More Flexible Stent Designed to Maneuver Brain's Delicate Vessels
Feb. 9, 2007 (San Francisco) -- Stents -- the small mesh tubes that
revolutionized heart care -- may offer a new option for thousands of stroke
survivors who still have blocked brain arteries despite optimal medical
So suggests a study of 131 stroke survivors implanted with a novel type of
stent designed to prop open severely clogged vessels in the brain.
Results showed that in 97% of cases, doctors were able to successfully
maneuver the stent deep within the brain, exactly to the area of blockage, then
open up the clogged artery.
By three months later, 12% of patients treated with the brain stent had had
another stroke, experienced a brain bleed, or died.
In comparison, 18% of people who get traditional drug therapy with aspirin
or blood thinners would be expected to die or have a stroke or brain bleed over
the three-month period, says Osama Zaidat, MD, a stroke researcher at the
Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.
The device also proved safe, he says.
Zaidat's study was presented at the 2007 International Stroke
Brain Stent Can Maneuver Delicate Vessels
Blocked brain vessels are a cause of ischemic strokes, the most common type
of stroke. They occur when blood flow to an area of the brain is compromised by
a blood clot or blockage. This leads to the death of brain cells and to brain
Zaidat says that for years, efforts to maneuver stents into the brain's
delicate vessels to open blockages generally failed.
The reason: Doctors were using the same stents they used to open blocked
heart arteries, he says.
Designed for the more sturdy blood vessels of the heart, such stents were
too thick, stiff, and rigid for narrow arteries deep within the brain, Zaidat
The new stent, known as Wingspan, is specially designed for the more fragile
brain blood vessels. It is made of a flexible metal alloy that permits it to
navigate vessels in the brain.
The stent is mounted on a balloon-tipped catheter that is inserted into a
leg artery and guided just beyond the brain blockage. The balloon is then
inflated just enough to open up the blockage and deploy the stent.
The next step, Zaidat says, is a study pitting brain stenting against
optimal drug therapy in stroke victims with blocked brain arteries.
“The data are encouraging,” says American Stroke Association spokesman
Robert J. Adams, MD, a neurologist at the Medical College of Georgia in
But until such a study is performed -- and stenting proves better, or at
least equal to drug treatment – it’s too soon to adopt it in routine practice,
Adams tells WebMD.