Analysis of human emboli and thrombectomy forces in large-vessel occlusion stroke

Yang Liu, Yihao Zheng, Adithya S Reddy, Daniel Gebrezgiabhier, Evan Davis, Joshua Cockrum, Joseph J Gemmete, Neeraj Chaudhary, Julius M Griauzde, Aditya S Pandey, Albert J Shih, Luis E Savastano
Journal of Neurosurgery 2020 February 28, : 1-9

OBJECTIVE: This study's purpose was to improve understanding of the forces driving the complex mechanical interaction between embolic material and current stroke thrombectomy devices by analyzing the histological composition and strength of emboli retrieved from patients and by evaluating the mechanical forces necessary for retrieval of such emboli in a middle cerebral artery (MCA) bifurcation model.

METHODS: Embolus analogs (EAs) were generated and embolized under physiological pressure and flow conditions in a glass tube model of the MCA. The forces involved in EA removal using conventional endovascular techniques were described, analyzed, and categorized. Then, 16 embolic specimens were retrieved from 11 stroke patients with large-vessel occlusions, and the tensile strength and response to stress were measured with a quasi-static uniaxial tensile test using a custom-made platform. Embolus compositions were analyzed and quantified by histology.

RESULTS: Uniaxial tension on the EAs led to deformation, elongation, thinning, fracture, and embolization. Uniaxial tensile testing of patients' emboli revealed similar soft-material behavior, including elongation under tension and differential fracture patterns. At the final fracture of the embolus (or dissociation), the amount of elongation, quantified as strain, ranged from 1.05 to 4.89 (2.41 ± 1.04 [mean ± SD]) and the embolus-generated force, quantified as stress, ranged from 63 to 2396 kPa (569 ± 695 kPa). The ultimate tensile strain of the emboli increased with a higher platelet percentage, and the ultimate tensile stress increased with a higher fibrin percentage and decreased with a higher red blood cell percentage.

CONCLUSIONS: Current thrombectomy devices remove emboli mostly by applying linear tensile forces, under which emboli elongate until dissociation. Embolus resistance to dissociation is determined by embolus strength, which significantly correlates with composition and varies within and among patients and within the same thrombus. The dynamic intravascular weakening of emboli during removal may lead to iatrogenic embolization.

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