Stroke-producing blockages from blood vessels in the brain can now be sucked out, thanks to a 'clot vacuum cleaner'.
Twenty-seven Calgary patients were rescued from massive strokes using the endovascular procedure, Dr. Mayank Goyal told the Canadian Stroke Congress.
The innovative technique uses a tool called the Penumbra System of Continuous Aspiration Thrombectomy to break down and gently aspirate stroke-causing blood clots to open up the blocked vessels.
If used within a few hours of an ischemic stroke, the process can reverse the effects of stroke by restoring blood flow to the affected areas of the brain - preventing the permanent loss of brain cells and related brain damage.
"This unique new procedure is really quite miraculous," said Dr. Goyal, the director of the Seaman MR Research Centre at the University of Calgary.
The procedure involves going in through the groin and threading a tiny catheter in a blood vessel.
The catheter is taken up to the neck and then an even smaller catheter is threaded into the brain beside the clot after which the clot is vacuumed out.
Dr. Goyal said: "It requires years of training to be able to do this.
"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. Teamwork is key for success"
Dr. Goyal pointed out that only really large strokes are suitable for this type of procedure.
He said: "The bottom line is we have this new technology which is extremely effective. This study involved patients with large strokes associated with much higher levels of disability and death and we have the potential to be able to give them a good quality of life."
Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Michael Hill said: "This promising technique has the potential to curb many of the devastating effects of large strokes.
"Patients may benefit in a number of ways including improved outcomes and improved quality of life." He emphasizes that Canadians should be aware of the stroke warning signs and to always treat them as a medical emergency.