Filter for the Brain

January 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's a growing procedure to clear out arteries that feed the brain, but it can also be dangerous. Carotid angioplasty and stenting can cause strokes and even death. A new tool that's protecting patients from the threat.Since he was a kid, Charlie Akers's radio has been his link to the rest of the world.

"I've met everything from people here in the states, all over the place," Akers told Ivanhoe. "Doctors to truck drivers."

The 58-year-old has his share of stories to tell. He survived a battle with cancer in his tonsils. Then he found out he had carotid artery disease -- the main arteries in his neck were clogged. "I was about 98 percent occluded," he said.

In the standard procedure to clear the arteries, a catheter is threaded through the groin into the artery. A balloon expands and a stent is left in place.

"One of the concerns, of course, is that when you blow up either a balloon or put a stent in the carotid artery, that particles can break off and go on up into your brain," Alan L. Lumsden, M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon at Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston, explained to Ivanhoe.

If particles block blood vessels, it can cause stroke or death. Instead, Dr. Lumsden performed an experimental surgery on Akers. Two balloons are placed in carotid arteries. A device reverses blood flow. Blood moves away from the brain to a filter outside of the body where particles are collected.

"You can back flush blood out of the head to wash out anything that you have knocked off," Dr. Lumsden said.

A stent is placed in the artery and blood flow returns to normal. Akers was in the hospital for less than two days. "The next morning I was ready to go home," he recalled.

Over the years, Akers has seen radio technology evolve, but this advancement may be what keeps him connected.

About 40 sites across the nation are testing the new procedure, which Dr. Lumsden says may be available in a couple of years. It is currently approved in Europe.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Methodist DeBakey Heart Center
Erin Fairchild, Public Relations Manager
Efairchild@tmhs.org

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