The first device to remove blood clots from the brains of people suffering strokes — a new treatment option that could save lives and shave the $53 billion annual bill to treat strokes — has been approved by the government.

In 80 percent of strokes, a blood vessel in the brain becomes clogged by a blood clot, increasing the chance of severe disability or death.

The Merci Retriever, a tiny corkscrew threaded through an artery to remove the clot and restore blood flow, is produced by Mountain View, California-based Concentric Medical.

The device, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was tested at 25 medical centers around the nation in 141 patients ineligible for a drug that clears clots but must be used within three hours of suffering a stroke.

Dr. Gary Duckwiler, a University of California-Los Angeles professor among the investigators involved in that clinical trial, said 40 percent of patients whose blood clots were successfully removed had positive outcomes.

Duckwiler said the recovery included instantly regaining the ability to move or speak — while the patient was still in the emergency room.

More here.