Placing a little metal screen, called a stent, inside a heart artery is becoming a common treatment for many heart patients, but what about using the same technique in the brain for stroke patients? Doctors are starting to save lives with this still-risky procedure.
Jeanet Desheers is only 50 years old, but she's already had one stroke that has made it hard for her to talk. She's now at high risk for another, potentially life-threatening, stroke. And standard treatments like blood thinners probably won't prevent it from happening.
So doctors at a New York hospital are trying a cutting-edge, invasive technique to keep blood flowing to Jeanet's brain. It's called a brain stent: a small tube that keeps the clogged artery in the brain open. It's much like a coronary artery stent in the heart.
But in the brain, the blood vessels are smaller and more fragile. "We are working on the brain, so the potential side effects can be severe," said Dr. Pierre Gobin of the Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Patients could have a stroke due to the procedure."
As the stent is snaked up into the brain, Dr. Gobin has to place it in the precisely correct position. But once he does, and the stent is opened up, blood flows freely again.
Because the procedure is so new and potentially dangerous, Dr. Gobin says it's only being done in the most severe cases. But he does expect the brain stent to become more popular, especially if most patients do as well as Jeanett. She recovered pretty well and she's relearning to speak.
Other centers around the country are now studying the brain stent to see which patients will be the best candidates. They should have results in a few years.
Since the device was approved a few months ago, Dr. Gobin has done four procedures using this type of stent and so far all of the patients have done well.
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