Corkscrew May Help in Stopping Strokes
Feb. 6, 2004

By DANIEL Q. HANEY, AP Medical Editor

SAN DIEGO - A tiny corkscrew that spears blood clots lodged deep within the brain appears to be a promising new tool for stopping strokes.

A doctor who tested the approach said Thursday that in some cases, it immediately reversed paralysis and loss of speech when used in the first hours of a stroke.

Nearly 90 percent of all strokes result from clots that block the brain's arteries, cutting off circulation and starving brain cells. The goal of the new device is to extract these clots before they do permanent harm.

Starkman directed testing of the corkscrew - called the Merci Retrieval System - on 109 patients. All had suffered severe strokes within the previous eight hours, and none could be given TPA.

The corkscrew successfully retrieved the clot in half of them. Three-quarters of these patients survived, and 40 percent had few or no lasting disability. Among those in whom the clot could not be removed, half survived and just 6 percent had a good recovery.

Starkman said many of the patients were paralyzed on one side or could not talk when the procedure began.

"What's really remarkable is we can see the problem and pull it out," he said. "In some patients, the moment the clot came out, they could move again or talk normally. It was instantaneous."