A new device called the Penumbra System is currently saving lives of stroke victims in Canada. In simple terms, it has the ability to suck a blood clot from the vessels in the brain, reversing the effects of a stroke and restoring blood flow to the brain.
The Penumbra System of Continuous Aspiration Thrombectomy is designed to be used with ischemic strokes, which accounts for about 87 percent of all strokes.
Twenty-seven stroke patients in Canada have already been recipients of the new procedure and have had their strokes successfully reversed.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood vessel disrupting the blood supply to the brain, resulting in the death of brain cells and subsequently brain damage.
The Penumbra System works by inserting a tiny catheter into a blood vessel, via the patient's groin. The catheter goes up to the neck where a much smaller catheter emerges out of it into the brain, where it vacuums out the blood clot. The procedure is very exact and requires a highly skilled team.
The system will only work on massive strokes and works best when the procedure is administered within three hours of a patient's stroke. It is imperative that a patient receive a CT scan immediately, to evaluate whether or not they are a candidate.
Dr. Mayank Goyal, Director of the Seaman MR Research Centre at the University of Calgary, and one of the centers currently using the Penumbra System, presented an update on the use of the Penumbra System at the Canadian Stroke Congress last week in Quebec.
“It requires years of training to be able to do this,” Goyal says. “It places enormous demands on the interventionalist, on the imaging specialists, and on the emergency team that gets the patient to a designated stroke care facility. Team work is key for success,” Goyal continued.
Dr. Goyal is currently working on a training website to help physicians diagnose and read CT scans effectively.
Currently, stroke patients are given t-PA which has to be received within three hours of a stroke. With the Penumbra System there is much less risk of bleeding and may still be successful after the three hour window.