Introduction: The arteries of bifurcation aneurysms are sometimes so angulated or tortuous that an exchange maneuver is necessary to catheterize them with a balloon or stent delivery catheter. Because of the risk of distal wire perforation associated with exchange maneuvers, we sought to find an alternative technique.
Methods: Our experience shows that a microcatheter tends to preferentially follow a previously placed microcatheter, even if the initial catheterization might be challenging. Accessing an artery with two microcatheters simultaneously may thus be an alternative to an exchange maneuver. Because of this tendency for catheters to behave like sheep following one another, we named this method the sheeping technique (ST). The ST consists of (a) first placing a 1.7 French microcatheter into the division branch requiring balloon or stent protection to straighten the course of the arteries in order to facilitate and (b) positioning in the same artery of a larger and stiffer balloon or stent microcatheter. Once the second balloon or stent microcatheter is in place, the first microcatheter can be pulled back and used to coil the aneurysm.
Results: Between January 2009 and December 2012, The ST was successfully used in 208/246 procedures (85%). Conversion to an exchange maneuver was necessary in 38/246 (15%). There were no arterial perforations or ischemic events related to the handling of both microcatheters.
Conclusion: The sheeping technique may improve safety by replacing the need for an exchange maneuver during difficult balloon- or stent-assisted coiling.