What is Embolic Debris?

Your arteries are your body’s “highways” for blood flow from your heart to nourish your cells, and this flow is controlled by the heart’s aortic valve. If your aortic valve becomes narrowed from a buildup of plaque, it may need to be replaced. But just as highway construction can result in road debris, procedures to replace heart valves could as well.

Heart procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) can be lifesaving by restoring function to the aortic valve. However, during this procedure, plaque can get knocked loose. Plaque is a buildup of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Embolic debris is the medical term for plaque that breaks away from an artery or valve and floats loosely in the bloodstream.

This is important because those small particles of embolic debris could travel through the bloodstream to the smaller arteries in the brain and block them. Blocked blood flow in the brain can cause a stroke, which could result in brain damage and could be fatal.

Why Embolic Debris Occurs

TAVI is a minimally invasive procedure that is recommended if you have severe aortic stenosis, which is a narrowing or obstruction of your heart valve. It can significantly improve the quality of your life or even save your life.

During this procedure, your doctor inserts a long flexible tube called a catheter into an artery, usually through a small incision in your wrist, and guides it to your aortic valve. Once it is in position, the doctor expands an artificial replacement valve at the tip of the catheter, pushing your narrowed natural aortic valve aside.

If plaque buildup is present around your natural aortic valve, this replacement procedure may cause plaque to break loose and travel through your bloodstream toward your brain. This embolic debris has the potential to block blood flow, thereby cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain.

A Unique Way to Remove Embolic Debris

Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent complications from embolic debris. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared what is called a cerebral embolic protection device for use during TAVI procedures. The Sentinel® Cerebral Protection System is the first and only one of these devices approved for use in the United States to reduce the risk of stroke during TAVI. The Sentinel filters your blood, capturing and removing embolic debris that may be released during such procedures. Watch this short animation to better understand how cerebral embolic protection works.

Sentinel technology has been used to protect thousands of patients worldwide. In clinical studies, the Sentinel removed potentially dangerous embolic debris in 99% of patients undergoing TAVI.

How Cerebral Embolic Protection Works

At the beginning of the TAVI procedure, the cerebral embolic protection device is inserted via a thin tube through a small puncture in your right wrist and guided toward your heart. The doctor then places two filters into the two main arteries between your heart and brain.

These filters collect embolic debris throughout your TAVI procedure. After the valve procedure is finished, the filters and the collected debris are removed.

If TAVI is in your future, ask your Heart Team about cerebral embolic protection.

The more you know about your own health, the better you can partner with your doctor to receive the very best care.