New Hanover Regional Medical Center has implemented new nationwide stroke guidelines for clot-removal treatments.
The latest guidelines from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association extended the treatment window for when doctors can perform a thrombectomy, the procedure to remove a blood clot.
Doctors now have up to 24 hours after the start of the stroke to remove a clot blocking blood flow to a portion of the brain, according to the association. Under previous guidelines, doctors had only about a six-hour window to remove the clot. When clots block blood flow, brain cells die due to lack of oxygen, which limits the brain’s the ability to control functions such as movement or memory, for example.
“It definitely is a major breakthrough for stroke and endovascular treatment,” said Dr. Vinodh T. Doss, an interventional neurologist with NHRMC.
“This is huge for our community. Many more people will benefit from this treatment,” said Claire Corbett, the manager of NHRMC’s Stroke Center.
Corbett refers to Southeastern North Carolina as the buckle of the stroke belt, a part of the country seeing higher rates of stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of disability and death in our region. NHRMC admitted about 1,200 stroke patients last year.
Many people wake up experiencing stroke symptoms, said Dr. Clyde Harris, NHRMC’s Chief Medical Officer. Since the onset could have occurred hours before, at one time they may have been ineligible for the procedure to remove clots.
“We can open that opportunity to people who woke up with strokes and people who had symptoms onset 6 hours ago, 10 hours ago, 12 hours ago, even up to 24 hours ago,” Harris said. “It does open up the possibility of salvaging brain tissue in a much larger group of patients.”
The guidelines followed a study that credited advancements in brain imaging with helping identify a greater number of stroke patients who can receive therapy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the study.
As part of the study, researchers compared outcomes for stroke patients who received standard medical therapy or standard therapy with endovascular thrombectomy.
The results showed those who had the thrombectomy were more likely to survive and had better outcomes than those who did not have the procedure.
Implementation of the guidelines is the latest advancement in treating strokes at NHRMC, which now offers the clot-removal procedure 24/7 as part of its Endovascular Stroke Program. Corbett estimates roughly 100 patients will receive this treatment annually at NHRMC.
Although patients can be treated after the six-hour window, Corbett cautioned against any delays in seeking medical attention – you should call 911 at the first sign of a stroke.
“Science still shows that the sooner you treat stroke patients, the better their outcome will be,” she said.
NHRMC has achieved a five-star rating for its performance in heart failure and stroke care from Healthgrades, which evaluates hospitals annually nationwide. NHRMC has also received The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval For Stroke Care, The DNV Certification for Primary Stroke Centers, and Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the highest quality status awarded by the AHA/ASA.
For more information on the NHRMC Stroke Program visit www.nhrmc.org/stroke.