Hundreds of thousands of strokes could be prevented each year by a simple mesh cylinder that diverts blood clots away from the brain, claims the company that developed the device.

It was implanted in a patient for the first time late in 2003. Strokes are the second most common cause of death in the western world, and those who survive are often left disabled.

The most common cause is a blood clot elsewhere in the body breaking off and travelling to the brain, where it blocks one of the small blood vessels. This deprives cells of oxygen, killing off part of the brain.

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