Endovascular treatment of Stroke: Historical Perspective
Effective acute ischemic stroke therapy hinges on rapid restoration of blood flow to
the ischemic tissue. Since the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke r-tPA
study,1 intravenous fibrinolytic therapy in appropriately selected patients has been the primary
method used to open the vessels and improve neurological outcome from stroke.
The intravenous administration allowed for widespread dissemination of the technique, since therapy
could be started very rapidly after the diagnosis is made. However, successful treatment with
r-tPA requires careful patient selection and adherence to strict inclusion and exclusion criteria.
As a result, there is a significant number of patients who could not receive the therapy.
Even though significantly better than placebo for most stroke patients, some still suffered a poor
outcome in spite of therapy. This raised the question whether there could be a way to directly
apply the fibrinolytic agent to the occlusive thrombus with catheter-based techniques in an effort to more effectively treat large vessel occlusions.
Intra-arterial thrombolysis was reported helpful in restoring flow in relatively small series of patients, especially situations like basilar thrombosis, with a dire natural history.2 However, only one study,
the PROACT study showed a positive impact on neurological outcome compared to placebo.
Results of this study were often used to justify endovascular treatment of patients ineligible or unresponsive to intravenous
r-tPA but intra-arterial administration of the fibrinolytic was often unsuccessful restoring flow
in the occluded vessel, and not infrequently was associated with hemorrhagic transformation
of the stroke. The endovascular armamentarium increased in the early years of the 21st century
with the development of the MERCI device (Stryker, Fremont, CA, USA), a cork-screw-like
device designed to mechanically retrieve thrombus.
Neuro Open J. 2015; 2(2): e4-e5. doi: 10.17140/NOJ-2-e003