The Stroke Network, Inc. )
 Merci Retriever

by Kathy Bosworth


I recently watched an episode of ER on television where the character had a stroke and was treated with a new product called a Merci Retriever. I was unaware of this new procedure and found it fascinating. I began to do some research so I could share it with you. The data and clinical studies are still being reviewed and new information is emerging everyday; but this is what I have found out so far. The Merci Retriever is the first medical device cleared by the FDA to remove blood clots from the brain in patients experiencing an ischemic stroke. Ischemic stokes account for 83% of reported strokes. It is a new procedure, invented by Dr. Pierre Gobin of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, and offers hope to patients to restore the blood flow.  

Merci, is short for; Mechanical Embolus Retrieval in Cerebral Ischemia. The mechanical device looks like a tiny corkscrew. It is inserted through an incision in the groin and threaded through arteries to the brain. The clot can be removed the same way as cleaning out a clogged pipe. The flow of blood can be instantly restored to the brain as the blockage is engaged, captured and removed. Although tPA has been the best method of treatment to date, it has a three hour window in which is can be used. The Merci Retriever can be used up to 8 hours after the onset of a stroke.

That is a huge breakthrough since valuable time is lost before a patient recognizes they are having a stroke, gets to the hospital, and a diagnosis is made. It is now even more imperative to get medical attention quickly when a stroke is suspected! Stroke survivors did not have options available twenty years ago. But new advances like this make me hopeful that more are coming. Since strokes are the number one cause of long-term disability in the US and the third leading cause of death, I am very encouraged that new ways are being developed to treat them. 

The only disadvantage I have seen so far is the unavailability of it at all hospitals. As with all things that are new, they must be researched and go through trial periods. It is understandable that the availability is limited. In the initial testing, 25 hospitals were utilized. Now there are approximately 120 hospitals across the nation that have this technology available with 300 physicians trained in the intra-arterial therapy. With clearance by the FDA in August 2004 to market the product, I am sure the numbers are rising.

My sincere wish is that within a few years it will be available at all hospitals. With the population aging, we will need this new medical advance. Research indicates that 500,000 new strokes are recorded each year and 200,000 recurrent strokes. It is estimated that one million will be the new number by 2050. Stroke related medical costs exceed 50 billion dollars a year. Those numbers are staggering and show how important it is to find ways to eliminate the disabilities that strokes can cause. It also shows once again that public awareness, quick medical attention, and availability of the newest treatments are crucial. 

After watching the ER episode, my immediate question was, is this available in my state? It would make a huge difference to me if I suspected a loved one was having a stroke. I would know to which hospital to head. I contacted the company that markets and manufactures this new device, Concentric Medical. They have a website and will soon have a list of all hospitals that have purchased the Merci Retriever. The list is not available yet because they need to have authorization from each hospital before they can legally list them on the website.

But they do expect it to be posted very soon. If you would like to check the site from time to time to see if the list is posted, please go to I emailed the company to ask about my state of Connecticut and they told me that there is only one hospital that has purchased the Merci. Unfortunately it is quite a distance from my house. But you can bet that if I suspect a stroke happening to a loved one, or myself, I am heading there! If you would like to know which hospitals in your state have purchased the Merci Retriever, you can also email the company at and they will be able to tell you. 

I would personally like to thank doctors with vision, like Dr. Pierre Gobin, for continuing to invent new products that have the potential to alter the lives of millions of people. Not just survivors, but their caregivers as well. Another thank you goes out to companies like Concentric Medical for turning an idea into a reality. I have renewed hope that the fight is ongoing to eliminate the devastating effects of a stroke. Although I know this is still in its infancy and more time and tests are needed, it is the most promising stroke related news I have heard in a long time.


Kathy Bosworth is the author of " Your Mother has Suffered a Slight Stroke"


Copyright April 2005

The Stroke Network, Inc.

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