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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New treatment can clear brain clots - By LAURAN NEERGAARD

It's a tiny vacuum cleaner for the brain: A new treatment for stroke victims promises to suction out clogged arteries in hopes of stopping the brain attack before it does permanent harm.

Called Penumbra, the newly approved device is the latest in a series of inside-the-artery attempts to boost recovery from stroke, the nation's No. 3 killer.

Most strokes occur when blood vessels feeding the brain become blocked, starving delicate brain cells of oxygen until they die. For those, the clot-busting drug TPA can mean the difference between permanent brain injury or recovery - but only if patients receive intravenous TPA within three hours of the first symptoms.

Yet fewer than 5 percent of stroke sufferers get TPA, because they don't get specialized care in time. And of those treated, it only helps about 30 percent, because the clot is often too big or tough for TPA to bust.

Enter Penumbra, an option for patients who miss out on early care - it can be tried up to eight hours after a stroke strikes - or if standard TPA treatment fails.

Specialists thread a tiny tube inside a blood vessel at the groin and push it up the body and into the brain until it reaches the clog. Just like a vacuum cleaner, it sucks up the clot bit by bit to restore blood flow.

For the right patient, Penumbra can produce dramatic help, says Dr. Demetrius Lopes of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, one of two dozen hospitals that tested the device in 125 severe stroke patients. [ for more click on th eheaqqding]


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