Magazine article Science News

Clear the Way: Stenting Opens Jammed Arteries in the Brain

Magazine article Science News

Clear the Way: Stenting Opens Jammed Arteries in the Brain

Article excerpt

By pushing a tiny mesh cylinder called a stent through blood vessels leading from the groin to the head, doctors can prop open narrowed arteries in the brain much as they do in the heart, several new studies show.

A brain artery that's partially blocked because of atherosclerosis is a stroke waiting to happen. While blood thinners such as aspirin and warfarin can ease blood flow through narrowed brain vessels, roughly one-fifth of patients with severe narrowing who get these drugs still suffer a stroke or brain hemorrhage or die of a vascular problem within 2 years.

Seeking a better alternative, scientists have adapted stents to fit brain arteries, which are smaller and more fragile than the arteries serving the heart. Two studies presented last week at the 2007 International Stroke Conference in San Francisco, along with a trial reported last year, indicate that the still-experimental brain stents might work as well or better than drugs and have fewer adverse effects.

In one of the studies reported in San Francisco, Chinese researchers placed bare metal stents in the brains of 213 people who had had a stroke or ministroke in response to atherosclerosis that had reduced the diameter of a brain artery by more than half. Only about 9 percent of the patients experienced a stroke in the stented artery during the 2 years following stent placement, says Wei-Jian Jiang, a cardiologist at Beijing Tiantan Hospital.

In another study, U.S. researchers analyzed data on 131 patients who had a brain artery 82 percent occluded, on average. …

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