Tags: stroke | treatment | miracle | governor | jim | edwards

New Stroke Treatment Gets 'Miracle' Results

By    |   Friday, 14 November 2014 06:14 PM

Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Edwards had no warning before suffering a stroke last summer — falling to the floor, unable to move the left side of his face or body. It was 4:30 a.m. and the 87-year-old former U.S. Energy Secretary was on his way to the bathroom when he collapsed and couldn’t get back up.

His wife, Ann, a retired R.N., immediately recognized his symptoms as a massive stroke and called for an ambulance, which rushed him to the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center. Once there, doctors decided to perform a revolutionary new stroke procedure on Edwards to remove two clots blocking blood to his brain — one that not only saved his life but also holds enormous promise for the future of stroke treatment.
 
Instead of giving Edwards a clot-busting drug such as t-PA — short for tissue plasminogen activator, the standard treatment for stroke — the doctor on call that night, Imran Chaudry. M.D., elected to try something new. His team performed an angioplasty, placing a stent in Edwards’ carotid artery to open up the blood flow in his neck and a thrombectomy, which essentially involved vacuuming out the 2.5-inch-long clot in his brain.
 
Edwards, who was awake during the entire 37-minute procedure (and asking questions), recovered quickly and completely after the procedure and now says feels as healthy as ever.
 
“I was very blessed,” Edwards said. He told the hospital staff: “Miracles happen every day here and most don’t affect me personally. But this did and I can’t thank people enough for the part they played in bringing me back from the dead. I thank God for you every day.”
 
Dr. Chaudry told Newsmax Health Edwards’ experience makes clear how promising the still-experimental approach may be for the tens of thousands of Americans who suffer a stroke every year.
 
"T-PA wouldn’t have been effective in helping the governor at all,” he said. “But he was the perfect candidate for this procedure [because] he had two blockages, one in his neck and a fairly large clot in his head, as well.”
 
Conventional stroke treatments, such as t-PA, are only effective if administered within the first three hours of a stroke’s onset. But the vast majority of patients don’t get to a hospital in time, so they often suffer massive bleeding or severe brain damage that kills them or leaves them with significant disabilities.
 
But with a thrombectomy, patients can benefit even 12 hours after suffering a stroke, and perhaps longer, Dr. Chaudry noted. The procedure is delicate and not appropriate for all stroke patients. But studies are underway to refine the technique and establish its safety and effectiveness — research that could lead to the Food and Drug Administration to approve it as a front-line stroke therapy.
 
To perform the operation, doctors thread a tiny catheter through the artery in a stroke patient’s groin and up to the brain. Once there, a small device suctions out the clot in fragments, restoring blood flow and preventing permanent brain damage. Remarkably, most patients remain awake during the procedure. 
 
“To see a patient having a stroke completely [recover] on the table after removing the clot is amazing,” said Dr. Chaudry, associate professor and fellowship director of the Neurointerventional Division of Radiology. “It’s also very humbling.”
 
In Edwards’ case, the former governor was feeling back to normal within an hour, and was discharged from the hospital the day after his procedure. Today, the former president of the Medical University of South Carolina — who counts former President Ronald Reagan among his political allies — suffers no paralysis or speech problems and has a good long-term prognosis, his doctors say.
Dr. Chaudry noted the procedure is still considered experimental, but expects that to change as more research is conducted and more success stories — like Edwards’ experiences — are documented.
 
“There are multiple studies ongoing to look at its effectiveness. We’re trying to refine the process of identifying the right patients for it,” he said, adding that it is already becoming “a de facto standard of care at many institutions and will become even more so in the years ahead.”
 
Philip Meyers, M.D., president of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS), agreed. “I think it’s a very important approach and the type of stroke that Gov. Edward was treated for is one of the worst types … with a high risk of dying. So I think it offers a high degree of promise.”
 
Stroke is a leading cause of death, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year — one of every 19 deaths, according to the Centers Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can vary depending on whether the stroke is caused by a blood clot (called an ischemic stroke) or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). But the following common signs of stroke should prompt an immediate call to 911:
  • Numbness, tingling, weakness, headache, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg.
  • Vision changes.
  • Trouble speaking or understanding simple statements.
  • Problems with walking or balance.

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A revolutionary new stroke procedure is giving patients new hope for living longer, happier lives. Standard therapies involve clot-busting drugs, but the new procedure 'vacuums' out clots to restore blood flow to the brain. Among the beneficiaries: Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Edwards.
stroke, treatment, miracle, governor, jim, edwards
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