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Lawrence Wechsler, M.D.

UPMC Stroke Institute in Revolutionary Study to Use Laser to Break Up Brain Clots

PITTSBURGH, August 20, 2001 — University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Stroke Institute will soon begin testing the use of a laser to break up clots in the brain, potentially revolutionizing the way strokes are treated.

The Endovascular Photo Acoustic Recanalization (EPAR) Laser System is being investigated in a national phase one research study to test its safety and effectiveness in patients who are suffering a stroke due to arterial clots in the brain.

"This is another in the arsenal of weapons being developed to help minimize the disastrous effects of strokes," said Lawrence Wechsler, M.D., professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Stroke Institute.

"We are interested in proving that use of this device is safe and effective," said Charles Jungreis, M.D., professor of radiology and neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "This could be an important step and a highly effective way to treat stroke."

The device is intended to break up blood clots during ischemic strokes. The earlier a clot is removed and blood flow is returned to normal, the less the damage to the brain and the quicker a person with stroke can recover.

The EPAR device is composed of a laser and a micro-catheter, which is placed in the patient's blood vessel and advanced to the clot. Pulsed laser light is used to create a "mini shock wave" that gently breaks up the clot, restoring blood flow.

The laser treatment should take only a few minutes, much faster than traditional treatments that can take up to two hours.

The study may show that the time limit for effective treatment after stroke onset is longer, which would be a significant advancement in the fight against stroke.

Stroke is the third most common cause of death and a leading cause of chronic disability in North America with more than 750,000 new cases occurring annually.

The Stroke Institute at UPMC is one of the top stroke centers in the nation and is dedicated to conducting research that will allow stroke victims to get better treatment quicker, especially in the most critical three to six hours after the onset of stroke.

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