Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability, according to the National Stroke Association. For patients who experience strokes and the physicians who treat them, time is brain.
A mechanical thrombectomy is a groundbreaking stroke treatment that our doctors use to return patients to full function at an astonishing speed – often within a matter of hours of having a stroke.
Because this procedure can remove the clot so quickly, the greater the patient’s chance of a full recovery.
The typical treatment for an acute stroke patient is an IV of a clot-busting, brain-saving drug called tPA that dissolves clots and improves blood flow to the brain. But dissolving the clot can take a few hours. In addition, an IV of tPA must be started within 3 hours of the onset of the stroke.
For patients with more severe stroke, TPA alone is not an effective option. The thrombectomy procedure can be started up to 8 hours after the onset of a stroke so it has a much longer time window than that of TPA, which gives the patient a better chance of recovery.
How it works: The treating physician quickly removes the clot by inserting a catheter into the patient’s groin, during an angiography, and then guides it through a blood vessel until it reaches the clot. At the end of the catheter is a basket-like stent — a small expandable tube — that, once open, restores blood flow through the artery. The stent with the blood clot stuck to it is then carefully removed.
Our use of this procedure was recently bolstered by the findings of two trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The studies confirmed what our physicians have long seen after performing mechanical thrombectomies on their patients: The procedure improves patient outcomes.
Local television news station KGW recently spotlighted OHSU’s pioneering use of the procedure and spoke with Rod Moore, a patient of Dr. Hormozd Bozorgchami with the Oregon Stroke Center at OHSU. Mr. Moore is an example of how quickly many patients recover after this procedure. After the clot was removed, Mr. Moore, while still lying on the operating table, reached out and tried to grab Dr. Bozorgchami with his previously paralyzed arm.
You can watch the story, and view pictures of the procedure here.
Elizabeth Seaberry is a Senior Media Relations Specialist at the OHSU Brain Institute.