Doubling Up Against Strokes

Headache, confusion, sudden loss of vision, dizziness — these are the symptoms of a stroke that can come at any moment, and getting help fast is crucial to a stroke victim’s recovery. Now a new approach to treating stroke may improve the odds of a successful recovery.

Nick and his wife, Marie, live in Jacksonville, Fla., and have shared a lot of good times.

“There was a time we used to go dancing four or five times a week,” says Nick.

Marie agrees. “You know, we can’t complain. I mean we’ve been to a lot of great places.”

They have also had their share of worries. Nick has had a major heart attack, a viral infection, cataracts, kidney disease and two strokes.

“I don’t know how I’m here, still here,” says Nick.

When Nick had his last stroke, he was given the drug, tPA intravenously, to break up the stroke-causing clot.

“That’s the clot-busting enzyme that’s produced in the lining cells of all blood vessels,” says a neurologist.

Although it worked for Nick, Dr. says less than 30 percent of patients who receive it significantly benefit. Now a new delivery method, called intra-arterial, or IA, may double that recovery rate. It involves threading a catheter to the brain where the stroke occurred.

“The advantage of the IV is speed,” says Dr., “The advantage of the IA is that you can put the medicine right next to the blood clot.”

Doctors are testing whether combining the two delivery methods can improve those odds.

“So that you get the advantage of quick starting the treatment but also maximizing the likelihood of opening up the blood vessel,” says Dr. Meschia.

Nick has slowed down some but says he’s in good hands with Marie. “She’s my rock of Gibraltar,” he says.

Dr. say there is a risk of hemorrhage associated with combining the two methods, but preliminary results show the combination is leading to better outcomes even after that risk is factored in.

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