Anders Anglesey looks into a ‘game-changing’ stroke treatment that could give patients a greater chance of making a strong recovery, which started in south London and is now being rolled out across the country.
My father did not recognise me the last time I saw him. He had been bedridden for the best part of four weeks, unable to move the right side of his body and could not carry out basic tasks such as swallowing food or independently visit the toilet.
It was heart breaking to see a man who had been so fiercely independent being reduced to almost infant-like dependency. I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. He died two days later, holding my brother’s hand.
When he was first admitted to hospital he was given a thrombolytic, commonly called a clot buster, which aims to break-up the cause of the blockage in a blood vessel and restore flow to the brain. Unfortunately the drug, fed through an IV tube, failed.
This is not uncommon, according to Dr Jeremy Madigan, consultant diagnostic and interventional at St George’s hospital, in Tooting, about 70 per cent of patients fail to benefit fully from the drug.
But the hospital has pioneered the ‘mechanical thrombectomy’ treatment that provides an 80 to 90 per cent chance of clearing the blockage, which will be rolled out to all 24 NHS neurology centres in England. During treatment a small tube is inserted into an artery in the groin and is manoeuvred towards the brain. When it reaches the clot it either sucks it into the tube or pulls it out using a wire.
The acute stroke unit at St George’s was the first in the UK to have a fully staffed, around the clock, thrombectomy service and administers care to more than 1,200 patients each year.
Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association, called the procedure ‘a real game changer which can save lives and reduce the chances of someone being severely disabled after a stroke.’ She said: “Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK, and a leading cause of disability. Current treatment options are limited and do not always work.
“The decision by NHS England could give thousands of critically ill stroke patients an increased chance of making a better recovery. It could mean more stroke survivors living independently in their own homes, returning to work and taking control of their lives again as a result.
“However, thrombectomy is a complicated procedure. Its delivery across England will need significant changes to NHS stroke services, as well as an increase in the number of trained professionals who can carry out the procedure so that as many people as possible can benefit from this powerful new treatment.”
Professor Tony Rudd, national clinical director for stroke at NHS England, said: “The quality of care and survival rates for stroke are now at record levels, and NHS England is committed to fast-tracking new and effective treatments, particularly, as in this case, where they deliver long-term benefits for both patients and the taxpayer.
“We will therefore now be working with and investing in specialist stroke services across the country to ensure we can introduce this out to all patients who would benefit, as soon as possible.”
According to the Stroke Association there are more than 100,000 cases of strokes in the UK each year.
Almost two thirds of survivors leave hospital with a disability.
To find out more about stroke treatment and outcomes visit the Stroke Association's website here.