Read this article as it originally appeared February 10, 2022 on northjersey.com.
When patients who are experiencing a stroke arrive at one of Prime Healthcare’s four New Jersey hospitals, there’s a good chance they will return to the lives they love.
Saint Clare’s Health in Denville and Dover, St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic and Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark offer the most advanced stroke care available anywhere in the region.
“One of the best things we can do is help a patient not have a permanent disability from a stroke,” Dr. Jeffrey Farkas, a board-certified radiologist with advanced fellowship training in neuro radiology and interventional neuro radiology who partners with Prime’s hospitals.
“It’s good for them, and it’s good for their families,” Dr. Farkas said. “That’s why it’s important to make sure every single person gets their best shot and the best care from start to finish.”
What causes a stroke — and how is it treated?
Broadly, there are two main causes of stroke: a blocked artery, known as an ischemic stroke, or leaking or bursting of a blood vessel, known as a hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke is the more common type of stroke, and it happens when the brain’s blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, which causes severely reduced blood flow.
To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must quickly restore blood flow to the brain. In the past, emergency IV medication has been the most common route. An injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is given through a vein in the arm with the first three hours of a stroke.
Sometimes tPA can be given up to 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms started, but not longer. In some cases, however, tPA does not dissolve the clot. Or, tPA might not be an option if too many hours have passed since symptoms started. In this case, it may be possible to clear the clot using mechanical thrombectomy.
Mechanical thrombectomy is an endovascular technique for removing blood clots from the brain after an ischemic stroke. After making a small incision in the groin, the specialist threads a thin tube known as a catheter through the blood vessels and to the clot. A small device at the tube’s tip grabs the clot and removes it, restoring blood flow to the brain.
“Think of it as a plumbing problem,” said Dr. Jeffrey Farkas.
“You come home, and your sink isn’t working. It’s clogged up. You put some Liquid-Plumr in, and if it works, great. But that tPA, might not be the answer. Or not enough. If it’s still clogged, you need an expert plumber. You need to get someone in there that can open things up and get things flowing smoothly.”
And, while you’re not under the same time constraints as tPA, you still need to act fast, Dr. Farkas said. “Every minute the clog isn’t resolved, brain cells are dying. Two million brain cells a minute. From the second you get to the hospital you need to make sure you’re getting the best care, and all of the possible treatments available, to get you back in good health fast.”
Farkas said a mechanical thrombectomy gives patients a second chance at life. While the stroke has undoubtedly changed their lives, patients regain their ability to walk, speak and return to their favorite activities.
To find out more about mechanical thrombectomies and how to prevent strokes, visit smmcnj.com/stroke.