Every second counts when it comes to effective stroke treatment. The longer a clot remains lodged in an artery of your brain, the longer your brain tissue starves for much-needed blood flow.
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That’s why the latest innovations in stroke treatment are focused on speed — getting blood flow to the brain restored as quickly and safely as possible.
“The most exciting thing is the development of a new class of devices called stentrievers,” says cerebrovascular surgeon Peter Rasmussen, MD. “Similar treatments in the past worked about a third to a half of the time, but stentrievers are effective 75 to 90 percent of the time.”
How do stentrievers work?
A catheter is inserted into the femoral artery and guided into the arteries of the brain. Attached to the catheter is a thin rope of wire mesh, which is inserted into the clot and expanded to become a tube, opening up blood flow and grabbing onto the clot for removal.
When can they be most effective?
People who are in the midst of their stroke but have not yet experienced significant damage to brain tissue are the best candidates.
“Typically we say within a time window of up to eight hours after first symptoms, but we rely more on imaging to track the stroke’s progress,” says interventional neurologist M. Shazam Hussain, MD.
How do I know if this treatment is right for me or my loved one?
Through a protocol of tests developed to screen people, Drs. Rasmussen and Hussain determine which patients will benefit most from a stentriever.
“Not only does this reduce unnecessary cost and unnecessary risk to the patient, but all of our patients collectively are doing better as a result,” says Dr. Rasmussen.
What other innovations are in the works?
New research is studying how hypothermia — cooling a patient’s body temperature — could play a role in treating stroke in its early stages. Stroke causes the most damage where blood flow has been directly blocked, but there’s also damage to surrounding brain tissue.
“Hypothermia can slow down or stop these processes, preventing some of that secondary injury,” says Dr. Hussain. “We hope this will allow us to salvage more brain tissue and have better outcomes.”
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