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Read this article as it originally appeared February 3 on nj.com and New Jersey Best.

Thanks to recent advances in the field of stroke diagnosis and treatment, patients are experiencing some of the best outcomes ever.

Strokes affect an estimated 800,000 Americans annually and can result in a debilitating loss of functionality and independence for victims as well as create a burden for caregivers if not treated quickly and with the appropriate techniques.

Thankfully, the field of stroke treatment has benefitted from a broad range of game-changing advancements in the past decade, enhancements that are enabling doctors to provide faster and more targeted care to stroke patients and subsequently drive better patient outcomes than ever.

Prime Healthcare offers advanced stroke treatment at its four New Jersey hospitals — Saint Clare’s Health in Denville and Dover, St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic, and Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark. According to Dr. Jeffrey Farkas, a board-certified radiologist with advanced fellowship training in neuro radiology and interventional neuro radiology who partners with Prime’s hospitals, some of the most significant advances in the treatment of stroke in the last 10 years include:

Advanced Devices — “The devices that we have today to reopen blocked blood vessels include the stent retriever, which is essentially a stent on a stick, as well as large-bore aspiration catheters, which help restore blood flow quickly by removing clots in patients experiencing ischemic strokes (e.g., strokes involving a blockage of blood flow to the brain),” Dr. Farkas said. “These devices have allowed us to navigate through the intracranial circulation with large catheters that we were previously unable to guide in that region, and pull out clots in six to eight minutes that used to take us 45 minutes to remove.” According to Dr. Farkas, such stents and other devices have especially enhanced the process of mechanical thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that removes a clot by going through a blood vessel in the arm or leg. “Mechanical thrombectomy with a stent has proven to be an effective option for patients with large vessel occlusion who are farther along in their stroke, and can restore much of their functionality,” he said.

Advanced Imaging — “Advances in imaging technology and artificial intelligence (AI) — including the use of AI for the screening and manipulation of data 24/7 and in real-time — allow us to treat stroke patients reliably and rapidly,” Dr. Farkas said. “This technology enables us to evaluate stroke patients using an imaging software algorithm and identify patients who are better candidates for certain procedures even if they fall outside of the standard ‘time interval’ parameters previously set for such treatment,” he said. “While it doesn’t preclude us from applying all reasonable treatments, this advanced imaging technology enables us to parse out who will do well on a particular treatment and who won’t, and apply the most beneficial treatments faster.”

Techniques to Avoid Re-Bleeding — Dr. Farkas noted that 15% of strokes are related to intracranial hemorrhage, a condition that has historically been a profound problem to treat. “Once bleeding has occurred in the brain, the neurological injury isn’t reversible like an ischemic stroke,” he explained. “To address this, we now take measures to prevent re-bleeding and/or slow the bleeding by rapidly reversing anticoagulation to thwart the growth of the intracranial bleed.” He noted that steps taken to prevent re-bleeding involve evaluating the patient acutely to accurately diagnose the cause of the bleeding. “In the event that a brain aneurysm is the source of the bleeding, for example, we have minimally-invasive treatments that can prevent the vascular abnormality from re-bleeding by going inside the blood vessel and using devices such as coils, web, glue and other embolic agents to block/stop the bleeding at the source,” he said. “These devices have become incredibly important in managing and preventing intracranial hemorrhages.”

Preventative Approaches — “In patients where we’re able to find the aneurysm or vascular problem before an intracranial hemorrhage has occurred, we can treat them reliably and safely using special devices such as flow divers, web devices and coils to prevent the site from ever bleeding with minimal risk and a quick recovery,” Dr. Farkas said. “These minimally-invasive procedures avoid the complications of an open operation and essentially allow us to ‘fix’ damaged arteries and/or remove blockages to the brain before they become a problem without brain surgery or a lengthy hospital stay and return the patient back to their life.”

Advanced devices and imaging, techniques to avoid re-bleeding and preventative approaches are among the breakthrough advances in stroke treatment.

Overall, the field of stroke diagnosis and treatment has been a wellspring of breakthrough advancements and patients who receive stroke care at any of Prime Healthcare’s four New Jersey hospitals can expect better outcomes than at other hospitals that haven’t invested in this area of specialty.

“Prime Healthcare’s advanced expertise, technology and rapid response capability are helping to deliver some of the best outcomes to stroke patients and their families in the North Jersey region,” Dr. Farkas said.

For more information visit smmcnj.com/stroke.