From the Journals

Silver lining emerges for embolic protection in post-TAVR stroke



Although the Sentinel cerebral embolism protection (CEP) device may not significantly reduce the overall stroke rate in patients after they’ve had transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), the device may improve survival and reduce the severity of procedure-related stroke, a retrospective database study reported.

Investigators led by Samir R. Kapadia, MD, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, analyzed outcomes of 136,382 patients in the Nationwide Readmissions Database who had TAVR in 2018-2019. The dataset included 10,201 people who received the Sentinel CEP device during TAVR.

Dr. Samir R. Kapadia, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Samir R. Kapadia

The proportion of patients who had a stroke after TAVR was similar in both groups – 1.85% (189) in the CEP group and 1.94% (1,447) in the CEP nonusers – but, as Dr. Kapadia pointed out, the stroke outcomes between the two groups were noticeably different.

“Interestingly enough, what we found was that the people with the CEPs who had a stroke had half the mortality, and they were going home at a significantly higher rate, than the people who had a stroke and didn’t have CEPs,” Dr. Kapadia said in an interview. A previous registry study of 276,316 TAVR patients reported the overall rate of post-TAVR stroke declined from 2.75% to 2.3% over an 8-year period. The CEP device, approved in December 2017, had been available in the last 2 years of that study.

In the current retrospective database study, CEP patients went home after their post-TAVR strokes at a rate of 28.2%, compared with 19.9% for those who didn’t have CEP (P = .011). The in-hospital death rates were 6.3% and 11.8% for the respective groups (P = .023), and the 30-day readmission rates were 15.9% and 16.8% (P = .91). “The readmission rate is similar, but if you survive you get admitted,” Dr. Kapadia reported in a research letter published in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions.

CEP involves inserting a catheter in the right wrist during TAVR. The catheter deploys two filters, one in the left carotid artery, the other on the right carotid and radial arteries, to capture embolic debris. After the aortic valve is seated and the TAVR completed, the CEP filters are removed.

Potential effectiveness of filters

The study builds on work by Dr. Kapadia and colleagues reported in the PARTNER trial, which showed that CEP filters consistently captured embolized debris resulting in smaller brain lesions after TAVR than no filters. The hypothesis for the latest study, Dr. Kapadia said, “was that, even though the stroke rates may be very similar between the TAVR patients who had CEP and those who did not, the filter removed the large embolic particles, although there were small particles. In those cases, the consequence of stroke would be much less in the sense that you would have minor strokes, and you would either not die from the stroke or you would be able to walk home safely if you did have a stroke.”

In Dr. Kapadia’s experience, the filters capture up to 80% of embolic debris. The Cleveland Clinic used CEP in 96.5% of its TAVR cases in 2021, he said, adding that national rates are considerably lower because Medicare doesn’t reimburse for the procedure. An observational registry study reported that 13% of TAVR procedures used CEP by December 2019.

Dr. Kapadia said that the PROTECTED TAVR trial of the CEP device has completed data gathering and should report results later in 2022. The study randomized 3,000 patients to TAVR with or without CEP.

Dr. Kapadia noted that the findings require further study to validate them. “If it is all true, it will change the practice; it will make TAVR safer.”

Dr. David J. Cohen, director of Clinical and Outcomes Research at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation and Director of Academic Affairs at St. Francis Hospital, Roslyn, New York

Dr. David J. Cohen

David J. Cohen, MD, MSc, director of clinical and outcome research at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York, called the study findings “provocative,” adding: “It makes points that we’ve seen in previous studies and certainly suggests there may be an important benefit of cerebral embolism protection that has not been well established to date.” Dr. Cohen is also director of academic affairs at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, N.Y.

The primary two findings of the study – lower risk of death and greater likelihood of discharge to home in CEP patients who had strokes after TAVR – “suggest that, while data on whether embolic protection actually prevents strokes is controversial and not at all definitive, these data suggest that perhaps one additional mechanism of benefit is that it’s making it much less severe when stroke occurs. That would obviously be of tremendous value.”

The findings are in line with other “suggestions that have not yet been explained,” Dr. Cohen said. “They may provide sort of a unifying explanation of why embolic protection may not prevent as many strokes as we thought but they may still be a very valuable adjunct.”

Boston Scientific distributes the Sentinel CEP device used in the study. Dr. Kapadia is the principal investigator of the PROTECTED TAVR trial, sponsored by Boston Scientific. Dr. Kapadia and study coauthors reported no other disclosures. Dr. Cohen is a consultant to Boston Scientific.

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