When you mention the City of Buffalo to folks around the United States, you'll generally hear back from them about the snowfall. You might even get a comment about the city's professional sports teams.
"And we may not have the best football team in the league," says Dr. Adnan Siddiqui jokingly. Dr. Siddiqui is a University at Buffalo neurosurgery professor.
"But," he continues, "we certainly have the best neurosurgical team in the country."
Dr. Siddiqui, an accomplished neurosurgeon himself, hopes that Buffalo will soon be known just as much for its studies of the brain and how to heal it. Part of the reason he is confident in that future, is the Solitaire™ FR Revascularization Device. The Solitaire was developed in part by University at Buffalo neurosurgery professionals at the Gates Vascular Institute.
The Solitaire is leading the way in the still-developing field of treating blood clots in the brain. By inserting a tiny wire with a stent-like tip into the major blood vessels near the brain, the Solitaire allows doctors to pluck blood clots from within the brain itself.
"This is really the first of it's kind," says Dr. Siddiqui, while displaying the tiny device. It appears like a tiny stent on a wire – but rather than physically widening blood passages like a stent, the Solitaire actually grabs and pulls blood clots from formerly inaccessible areas of the brain.
By doing so, Solitaire greatly increases surgeons' ability to quickly neutralize the potentially-debilitating effects of strokes, which are caused by such clots.
"The advantage is we don't have to leave the patient on special types of blood thinners or platelet-blocking drugs," says University at Buffalo neurosurgeon Dr. Elad Levy, "which can increase the risk of bleeding after a stroke."
Before Solitaire, the generally-accepted method to remove brain clots was a so-called "clot-busting drug" called tPA. However, because tPA is based on naturally-occurring proteins, it affects each patient differently. That inconsistency led to big variables in treatment time, and sometimes resulted in more long-term damage as the drug took longer to "bust" the clot.
The Solitaire is more consistent. More importantly, it's faster.
"All our brains are not off the same assembly line, "says Dr. Levy. "We're not all built like the same car. One brain may hang on longer than another brain."
But the longer a brain's blood circulation is compromised, the less chance doctors have to abate the blood clot before long-term stroke-related damage occurs.
"Everybody has a little bit different circulation and a little bit different 'reserve,'" says Dr. Levy. "So in general, the faster you get there, the better it is."
Solitaire is just the latest tool to prevent the long-term effects of a stroke. Doctors say the best method of stroke prevention, is still early personal identification.
"Remember, if there's sudden onset of inability to speak or if the face, arm and leg on one side or the other loses function, this could potentially be symptoms of a devastating stroke," says Dr. Siddiqui. "You should call 911."
For more information on brain blood clot and stroke abatement services provided by the University of Buffalo Neuroscience Center and Gates Vascular Institute, visit UNBS.com.
Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, M.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology, as well as the Director of Neuroendovascular Research and Stroke Service at the University of Buffalo.
Dr. Elad Levy, M.D., is a professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology, as well as the Director of Neuroendovascular Fellowship at the University of Buffalo.