Stroke Procedure Can Save Thousands of Lives

The American Stroke Association released new guidelines Monday and for the first time, a clot removal procedure is now on that list of standard care.

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in this country. And for the type of stroke caused by a blood clot in a major artery, the announcement is huge.

Tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year in this country thanks to a medical procedure that’s already saved one man's life here in San Diego.

On August 27, Stefan Reisch was on his way to work, driving west on Interstate 8, when he started losing feeling on the left side of his body.

"Basically immediately I felt like I was going to pass out, and I thought, you can't pass out, you're on the freeway,” he recalled.

He drove his car off the road.

When police arrived, they asked if he'd been drinking or was on drugs.

Then they asked him to smile.

Medics recognized he was having a stroke, got him to UCSD Medical Center where a clot removal procedure saved his life.

When a powerful blood thinning medication could not dissolve the blood clot in his brain, doctors used something called a stent retriever.

A catheter is put into an artery in the leg. It can travel all the way up to the brain where it can actually grab onto and remove a blood clot while someone is still having a stroke. It should be done within six hours of stroke symptoms, the AHM

Retrievers have been around for years but haven’t been used regularly.

UC San Diego Medical Center is one of 90 comprehensive stroke centers offering mechanical

"Unfortunately, only about 10,000 are performed every year in the United states,” said Alexander Khalessi, M.D., Reisch’s surgeon.

He says that's only a fraction of the 75,000 patients that could benefit from this procedure.

By adding the stent retriever to the list of standard care for stroke patients, the American Stroke Association gives its support behind a procedure that could help thousands which could lead to its use in more medical centers.

"Knowing that the procedure is standard of care, that people are going to have this, it's awesome, that my story is going to be the norm in many cases is super exciting," Reisch said. 

Khalessi was in the American Stroke Association’s guidelines writing group and author of the paper that appeared in Stroke.

The stent retriever SolitaireTM, was produced by the California-based company Medtronic.

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