Mechanical Thrombectomy

Mechanical thrombectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove blood clots from a blocked artery in the brain following a stroke. During a thrombectomy, doctors use a tiny wire cage-like device called a stent retriever to remove the clot. The stent opens and grabs the clot, allowing doctors to then remove the stent, along with the trapped clot.

The gold standard in stroke care – the clot-busting drug, tPA – is still given in most cases, but it does not always dissolve large clots completely. A thrombectomy, when performed within six hours of acute stroke symptoms and after the patient receives tPA, can significantly increase the odds of survival and reduce stroke-related disability. (Note: the procedure has been proven beneficial for some patients when done up to 24 hours after symptom onset.)

Thrombectomy is useful for stroke patients who have enough viable brain tissue remaining to benefit from the procedure.

How it works

  • When a stroke patient arrives for treatment, tPA is usually delivered directly to the site of the blot. Afterward, doctors use advanced neuro-imaging to evaluate the patient’s brain. If tPA alone does not dissolve the clot and restore blood flow, and if the patient is a good candidate for the procedure, mechanical thrombectomy is the next step in the patient’s treatment.
  • A catheter is threaded through an artery in the groin up to the blocked artery in the brain.
  • The stent retriever is inserted into the catheter.
  • The stent opens and grabs the clot, then is removed with the trapped clot inside.