Jefferson neurosurgeons using innovative stent to open clogged brain arteries, prevent strokes

Neurosurgeons at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia are the first in the region and among the first in the nation to successfully use a new stent specifically designed to open potentially life-threatening clogged arteries in the brain, preventing a stroke.

The device, called the Wingspan Stent System, is used for individuals with intracranial atherosclerotic disease, which results from too much plaque in brain arteries. The condition accounts for about eight to 10 percent of strokes due to ischemia, or some 60,000 strokes in Americans each year.

Traditional medical management for such blockages using blood thinners such as Coumadin and aspirin is frequently ineffective. Doctors have tried using heart stents the mesh metal tubes placed in a coronary artery to keep it open after an interventional procedure but they are stiff and not meant for the more fragile blood vessels in the brain.

The Wingspan Stent is self-expanding and is placed using minimally invasive techniques. It is threaded through an artery in the leg. "It's the first self-expanding stent for intracranial use designed specifically for atherosclerotic disease in the brain," says Robert Rosenwasser, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Dr. Rosenwasser, who is a professor at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University continued, "With stent technology and the proper tools, we should be able to lower the risks of treating the disease because these devices are designed specifically for cerebral blood vessels."

Instead of steel, the most commonly used material for traditional coronary stents, the Wingspan stent is composed of nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium. This design puts less pressure on the blood vessel when it expands.

Previously, patients had few options. "Up until recently all we could do was offer anticoagulants such as Coumadin, Plavix and aspirin to avoid a stroke," explained

Contact: Steve Benowitz
Thomas Jefferson University

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