Vall d'Hebron tests robotic thrombectomy for stroke with a pioneering study in Europe

The procedure, led by Dr. Alejandro Tomasello, aims to reduce intervention time to a minimum by working over long distances.


Vall d'Hebron is leading a pioneering study in Europe to make long-distance robotic thrombectomy possible. This procedure will make it possible to operate on stroke patients without the need for them to move and, in this way, will considerably reduce the intervention time, which is essential in this type of procedure. The study is led by Dr. Alejandro Tomasello, a researcher in the Clinical Neuroimmunology group at the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and head of the Interventional Neuroradiology Section at the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital (HUVH). In addition, Marc Ribó, from the HUVH Stroke Unit, as co-principal investigator, and David Hernández, member of the HUVH Interventional Neuroradiology Section, are also participating.

Thrombectomy is the removal of a thrombus blocking blood circulation. This pathology must be treated quickly, taking into account that time is a key factor in its resolution. If thrombectomy is not performed in time, the patient may die or suffer permanent sequelae. Nevertheless, it is a complex procedure that cannot be performed in just any centre. In this sense, the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital is a reference centre for thrombectomies in Catalonia.

At the same time, this technology is also used for pathologies such as aneurysms or neuro-interventional or endovascular pathologies, which require high precision when being treated. In this case, the device provides a level of accuracy that cannot be achieved by human intervention and allows higher limits of perfection to be set.

A robot with 5G technology

In order to reduce intervention time to a minimum, Vall d'Hebron has begun a pioneering study in Europe to assess the effectiveness of using robots to perform thrombectomies with robotic surgery. This technique, which has only been tested before in Canada and Australia, would allow the intervention to be performed remotely in real time thanks to the speed of the 5G network, using Corindus technology developed in the United States. Vall d'Hebron has tested the new technology with 7 patients and the validation of results is being carried out together with the users in order to observe the reaction to the intervention.

As Dr. Carlos Molina, head of the stroke research group at Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and head of the Neurology Section - Stroke Unit at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, explains, "when a person suffers a thrombus, they could be treated from another centre closer to where they are and be operated remotely by specialised interventional staff from Vall d'Hebron". In the future, this could even be done from an ambulance or from a mobile stroke unit. This robot is currently being tested at Vall d'Hebron from a room attached to the operating theatre. Dr. Tomasello also points out that the procedure will also help to reduce the impact of radiation on the operator in charge of this process.

Currently, 22% of thrombosis cases are treated with the mechanical thrombectomy technique, a procedure in which the thrombus blocking a cerebral vessel is accessed by means of an endovascular microcatheter - a small, flexible tube inserted through the femoral artery - to remove or extract the thrombus. In the most severe cases of thrombosis, which are those with intracranial artery blockage, patients have a poorer prognosis and the new robotic thrombectomy procedure will provide a better outlook.

Dr. Alejandro Tomasello highlights the fact that the use of new technologies, as well as the validation and studies of their possible applications, places Vall d'Hebron Hospital as a pioneer in Europe. On the other hand, the effect on health and the improvement in the efficiency of the processes that robotics will bring to the world of neurointerventionism is a very promising open door.

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