Brain stents show big promise for stroke patients

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Stroke experts are reporting a major advance: Stents similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries can be used to clear a blood clot in the brain, greatly lowering the risk a patient will end up disabled.

Patients treated with brain stents were far more likely to be alive and able to live independently three months after their stroke, doctors said Wednesday at an American Stroke Association conference in Nashville.

Three studies testing the treatment were stopped early so it could be offered to more patients.

The usual treatment is clot-dissolving medicine called tPA. Doctors sometimes try devices pushed through blood vessels to pluck out the clot, but several studies found they didn’t help. However, newer devices open an artery much faster and with less damage to the blood vessel. Unlike heart stents, which stay in place to prop the artery open, the brain stents flatten the clot, trap it and are removed with it.

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