Stents are used commonly to open arteries around the heart. In the past, stents for the heart were tried in the arteries around the heart. But, they generally failed because the arteries of the brain are smaller and much more fragile. However, new types of stents have been designed of a flexible metal alloy—such as Wingspan™—that allows them to be successfully inserted into the thinner, more flexible, and more delicate arteries of the brain. Early results show that over 90% of these stents are successfully inserted by surgeons into brain arteries.
The 2007 International Stroke Conference held in San Francisco, California, on February 7-9 saw two groups of scientists report on the use of brain stents to open severely clogged vessels in the brain.
Chinese researchers stated that they used bare metal stents in the brains of 213 people who suffered strokes caused by atherosclerosis. The stents re-opened arteries that had diminished in size by over one-half. Following the insertion of stents, only 12% of patients had another stroke, experienced bleeding of the brain, or died over the ensuing four-month period. This result compares to about 18% of people over the same period of time that were given traditional drug therapy to thin the blood.
U.S. researchers conducted a study on 131 people who had on average an 80% reduction of blood flow in brain arteries. When inserted into the affected artery, the flexible stent would automatically open up with the use of springs. The results showed that the arteries possessing the flexible stents had increased their size by about 20%.
A third group of scientists, from the United States, published their results in the October 2006 issue of Stroke. After insertion of drug-coated metal stents into 31 patients with aggressively narrowed arteries in the brain, only two patients had strokes during the four months after the procedure.
The three studies provide early success for the use of stents placed inside of brain arteries. However, the use of stents within the brain is still at the very early stage of testing with extensive research being performed on the best types of stents to use and the best methods for inserting them into brain vessels. Dr. Tudor G. Jovin, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pennsylvania) and one of the co-authors of the third study, is quoted in Science News with respect to this early stent usage: “We’re going through what cardiology went through 10 or 15 years ago.”
(Source of quote) Science News, February 17, 2007, “Clear the Way: Stenting opens jammed arteries in the brain”, pages 99-100,
For additional information on the Wingspan™ Stent System, go to: http://www.bostonscientific.com/med_specialty/deviceDetail.jsp?task=tskBasicDevice.jsp§ionId=4&relId=5,230,231,232&deviceId=14052&clickType=SpecMainPromo.