Doctors develop new technique causing revolution in stroke treatment

NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Doctors say "time is brain" when it comes to a stroke. Every minute makes a difference between full recovery - and a life of disability.

In this week's Moves in Medicine, we explore a new treatment giving patients a better chance of that.

20 years ago, a compound called TPA revolutionized stroke treatment. It dissolves blood clots in the brain, the cause of about 87 percent of all strokes.

Now another revolution is underway.

Doctors at Temple Health can now surgically remove those clots, quickly putting the brakes on a stroke.

"This lady would have had, would've been a stroke that would have killed her," says Dr. Kadir Erkmen, a Temple Health neurosurgeon, as he refers to an angiogram.

Once the clot is located with high-tech imaging, a catheter is threaded from the groin, up into the brain and into the artery to that location.

A device pulls the clot out, restoring blood flow in that area.

"We have to go very quickly - the longer the arteries are blocked, the bigger the stroke will be or the more deficits the patient will have," says Dr. Erkmen,
It can be done in 15 minutes.

"This is before the intervention. that's after the intervention,"

Dr. Erkmen says clot retrieval has changed stroke treatment.

"Someone who would have come in with a stroke that would have led to them passing away, can now walk out of the hospital a couple days later - totally neurologically intact," he notes.

But such miraculous results depend on quickly recognizing a stroke is occurring.

Dr. Paul Katz, interim chair of neurology, says to always keep the word FAST in mind.

"F" is for face -

"Is there a droop? is there anything wrong with the face?" says Dr. Katz.
"A" is for arm weakness, numbness or tingling on one side.

"S" is for speech.

"They would have a language problem, or maybe their speech is just slurred," he notes.

"T" is for time.

If any of those symptoms last more than 15 minutes, call 9-1-1.

High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure raise the chance of stroke.

And you should work with your doctor to reduce those risks.

But strokes CAN happen to anyone.
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