Bioethics Blogs

Clot Removal: Impressive Results for Stent Retrievers in Acute Stroke

Caption: Schematic of how the clot retriever used in the reported trials is opened inside a blood vessel to surround a clot that is blocking blood flow. Once caught by the stent, the entire apparatus with the clot is removed from the body out a small puncture in the femoral artery at the groin.
Credit: Covidien

Despite the recent progress we’ve made in preventing stroke by such steps as controlling weight, lowering blood pressure, and stopping smoking, nearly 700,000 Americans suffer clot-induced, or ischemic, strokes every year [1]. So, I’m very pleased to report that, thanks to years of rigorous research and technological development, we’ve turned a major corner in the emergency treatment of this leading cause of death and disability.

The most severe strokes—those that can cause lifelong loss of independent function—are often due to blood clots that suddenly enter and block one of the main arteries supplying blood flow to the brain. No less than four large, randomized clinical trials recently reported results showing, for the first time, that using catheters to remove large clots from cerebral arteries can restore blood flow and halt further damage to the brains of patients with acute strokes. In fact, the stent-based retrievers and other mechanical approaches used to remove stroke-causing clots proved so effective, that three of the four trials were stopped early, allowing the results to be made swiftly available to medical professionals and the public.

This is potentially great news for people who suffer the onset of severe ischemic strokes and their loved ones. All of the studies found that clot-removal procedures, also referred to as endovascular therapy, shortened stroke patients’ recovery times by at least a few months and significantly improved their chances of regaining independence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.