Advancements in Stroke Treatment Changes Lives

Despite maintaining a fourth place ranking when it comes to causing death in the United States, there is promising news in the treatment and prevention of stroke – hospitalizations and deaths are on the decline.

Recent research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that between 1999 and 2011, hospitalization rates for ischemic stroke dropped 33.6 percent and the risks of dying for people who went to the hospital within a year decreased about 13 percent. They attribute this progress to consistent improvements in the use of evidence-based treatments and medications as well as a strong emphasis on heart-healthy behaviors.

Syed Zaidi, MD, director of the neurointerventional stroke program at ProMedica Toledo Hospital agrees.

“In this day and age, stroke treatment has advanced significantly,” Zaidi said. “Not only do we have clot-busting drugs, we have innovative procedures like mechanical embolectomy that we can deploy to unblock the arteries and have good outcomes.”

Another tool in the stroke arsenal is the use of telemedicine to expand the reach of stroke specialists to community hospitals in rural areas improving patient care.

“There is a shortage of neurologists and neurointerventionalists around the country,” Zaidi said. “Now that we have telestroke capabilities that provide a two-way connection to emergency rooms in community hospitals, we can make more informed decisions on how to best treat the patient.”

Streamlined, quick care and the telestroke network played an integral role in the outcome for Lima resident Rodger Waubin. In July, the 65-year-old suffered a stroke shortly after getting up from a nap. His wife Pam immediately called 911 and got him to the Lima Memorial Emergency Center, which is a member of the ProMedica Stroke Network. Dr. Zaidi was able to evaluate Rodger in the emergency room via telestroke, have a face-to-face conversation with his wife, get a more precise medical history and view the results of imaging that had been done at the hospital.

Zaidi and Patient
Rodger Waubin with Dr. Zaidi

Once the team determined Rodger’s stroke had been caused by a clot, he was given the clot-busting drug tPA and taken via air ambulance to ProMedica Toledo Hospital. He initially regained the use of his right arm and leg and was able to talk with his wife. A day later, his symptoms worsened and tests determined the clot was still blocking blood flow in his brain. Dr. Zaidi performed a mechanical embolectomy, which involved threading a catheter through his leg to the area of the brain where the clot was located and removing it.

“Dr. Zaidi called me in and said that Rodger was smiling and talking and moving the right side after the procedure,” Pam said. “They had pulled a ¾ inch clot out, he showed me, I couldn’t believe it.”

A mere six weeks later, Rodger and Pam are hunting and living an active life. Rodger has speech therapy but no lingering health issues from the stroke. Doctors don’t know what caused his stroke, which is called a cryptogenic stroke, so he’ll be monitored closely over the coming months with a LINQ monitor and will see multiple specialists. The LINQ monitor looks for atrial fibrillation, which is believed to cause cryptogenic strokes.

“We cannot emphasis enough that as soon as the patient starts having stroke symptoms… the brain cells start dying,” Dr. Zaidi said. “The sooner we open the blood vessel, the best it is for the patient.”