Lancaster County Now Has Advanced Stroke Treatment
Ongoing medical advances are giving stroke patients more hope of a complete recovery than ever before. One of the latest advances—a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy—allows doctors to physically retrieve large blood clots from the brain before extensive damage occurs. Lancaster General Hospital is the first and only hospital in Lancaster County to offer this life-saving procedure.
“Despite the growing number of impressive medical options like mechanical thrombectomy, the most important treatment for stroke is something very basic: time,” said Dr. Ram Chavali, medical director of endovascular stroke intervention at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
The most important treatment for stroke is something very basic: time
“Time is brain is more than a memorable catchphrase,” explained Dr. Chavali. “People who get medical attention early enough can receive care to limit a stroke’s impact on brain function, or even save their life. That’s why experts always advise calling 9-1-1 at the first sign of stroke.”
Understanding Stroke Care
A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts, depriving the brain of oxygen-rich blood. This can lead to long-term disability and even death.
After a stroke patient arrives at the hospital, doctors will order a special X-ray called a CT scan of the brain to determine the type of stroke the person suffered.
- If it is a hemorrhagic stroke—a stroke caused by a blood vessel in the brain bursting—treatment focuses on stopping the bleeding.
- For an ischemic stroke—a stroke caused by a blood clot blocking a vessel that supplies blood to the brain—treatment involves either busting the clot or physically removing it.
“For many patients, the blood clot can be treated with clot-dissolving medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA,” said Dr. Chavali. “This medication needs to be given within three hours, or for some eligible patients, up to 4 ½ hours after the onset of a stroke. If a larger clot caused the stroke, mechanical thrombectomy may be needed.”
What is Mechanical Thrombectomy?
Mechanical thrombectomy is an advanced procedure to remove large blood clots from the brain. Specially trained doctors use a catheter inserted through an artery in the groin to send a wire-caged device called a stent retriever to the site of the blocked vessel in the brain. The stent opens up and grabs the clot, allowing doctors to remove it. This procedure is most effective within six hours of the onset of a stroke.
Patients near hospitals like Lancaster General Hospital that offer mechanical thrombectomy, can get this care that provides the greatest chance for a complete recovery, without having to be transported out of the area.
About 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. While people with large clots make up a small percentage of that number, they are at greatest risk for disability and death.
Many people may not know that stroke symptoms happen can quickly. It is important to be aware of these signs and call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice:
- Numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body
- Vision changes
- Trouble speaking
- Confusion or trouble understanding simple statements
- Problems with walking or balance
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches and often described as the “worst headache of my life” (may be related to a hemorrhagic stroke)
Medical treatments like tPA and mechanical thrombectomy are making a huge difference in both survival rates and quality of life for stroke patients. However, the effectiveness of any stroke treatment depends on getting the right care as quickly as possible.
Learn more at LGHealth.org/Stroke.