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What is Stent-Assisted Coiling?

Medical illustration of an anuerysm in the brain

Stent-assisted coiling is a new, minimally invasive procedure that offers patients with "wide neck" aneurysms a non-surgical option that wasn't available to them before. It involves placing a stent inside of a wide neck aneurysm to anchor tiny, platinum coils that protect damaged blood vessel walls.

What is a "Wide Neck" Aneurysm?

Aneurysms are weak spots in the blood vessels that are stretched so thin that they are in danger of bursting. Wide neck aneurysms, considered the most difficult to treat, are aneurysms that have wide openings at their base that extend to either side of the arteries.

Is it a Common Condition?

Roughly five million people in the United States have some sort of brain aneurysm and about 25 percent of them have "wide neck" aneurysms.

How Have "Wide Neck" Aneurysms Traditionally Been Treated?

Unlike "narrow neck" aneurysms, which are treated with coils that divert blood flow away from vulnerable vessel walls, "wide neck" aneurysms require special attention. Because their openings are so wide, coils alone don't stay in place.

Until recently, the only option for those with wide neck aneurysms was brain surgery. Surgeons would have to drill into the skull and place a clip over the opening of the aneurysm to seal it off. Needless to say, this was quite invasive and required a lot of recovery time in the hospital.

How Serious are Brain Aneurysms?

Untreated aneurysms can rupture or burst. If one bursts in an artery that feeds blood to the brain, it leads to stroke or even death in 50 percent of all cases.

How Exactly Does the Stent Procedure Work?

Doctors make a small incision in the patient's groin and insert a tiny micro-catheter into their femoral artery. With the help of advanced computer X-ray scanners, they then weave the catheter up through the patient's blood vessels to the site of the aneurysm in the brain.

At the site, they insert the stent, which is a small, metal, mesh tube. Once in place, the stent conforms to the shape of the artery.

The stent then acts as scaffolding and "assists" the coils by securing them in place and preventing them from falling out. Over time, natural healing occurs and blood clots on the coils. This diverts blood away from the weakened vessel walls and prevents a rupture.

What are the Benefits of the Stent-Assisted Coiling Procedure?

A key benefit of stent-assisted coiling is that it is a non-surgical procedure, which means there is less stress on the body. Because stent-assisted coiling is much less invasive than brain surgery or clipping, patients recover much more quickly. Typically, patients spend only a couple of nights in the hospital following a stent procedure and are able to return to work in a week or so.

What are the Risks of the Procedure?

If, for some reason, the coils come loose, they could block the carotid artery or smaller blood vessel and cause a stroke. By placing the stent across the neck of the aneurysm, however, this scenario is highly unlikely.

Why Should Patients Come to the University of Maryland Medical Center to Have the Stent-Assisted Coiling Procedure?

Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center were among the first in the country to perform the procedure, and their expertise translates into higher success rates.

Who Should Patients and Referring Physicians Contact for Information about the Procedure?

For more information about stent-assisted coiling, call 410-328-0937.