If you watched ER Thursday night, you know that a woman was brought in with a potentially deadly stroke and her best shot at a full recovery was a controversial surgical procedure. It turns out the same device featured in ER, called the MERCI Retriever, is a brand new tool that is reversing stroke damage for real life patients in some emergency rooms across the country.
The MERCI Retriever is a thin coiled wire that literally lassos blood clots restoring blood flow to the brain. In some cases, if the clot is removed early enough, the stroke damage disappears almost instantly. "She started to move her left arm when she was on the table, and she was unable to move her left arm before the procedure," says Dr. Sten Solander, a neuroadiologist.
Dr. Solander says the procedure is risky, but it can make a dramatic difference in recovering from a stroke. It's estimated the MERCI Retriever could help the nearly 600,000 people in the US who suffer strokes every year. Those who either can't tolerate the standard clot busting medication or those patients who have missed the three hour window of time allowed to get the drug after symptoms show up.
Luckily, the MERCI Retriever extends the treatment window for stroke patients to eight hours. The device received FDA approval last August, but studies show the MERCI Retriever was effective only 50% of the time. But what a blessing for the 50% who might have been paralyzed if not for this new stroke reversing technology.
Concentric, which is based in California, designed the MERCI, which stands for Mechanical Embolus Removal in Cerebral Ischemia. Ischemic strokes affect blood vessels in the brain. Of the 700,000 strokes that occur annually in the United States, about 83% are ischemic, or caused by blood clots.
Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. The paralysis and loss of brain function that often result make it the leading cause of serious long-term disability.