Stents retrievers – devices that remove blood clots – double the recovery rate for the most common kinds of strokes, but most Americans don’t have access to this type of care.
The most common types of strokes are called ischemic strokes or “dry” strokes. Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of all strokes. These strokes occur when a blood clot or other substance formed in another part of the body becomes lodged in a blood vessel blocking blood to the brain.
Studies show that a device called a stent retriever is the most effective way to treat the most common type of stroke. A stent retriever is used in three steps. First, a doctor threads a metal stent into a patient’s clogged artery. Second, the stent expands and the clot is trapped in a small wire mesh. Third, the doctor removes the stent, and the clot that is stuck in the stent is pulled out along with the stent.
About 240,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year that could be treated with a stent retriever device. But only about 28,000 were treated with a stent retriever last year, according to a recent article in Bloomberg. Unfortunately, there are only about 150 specialized hospitals called Comprehensive Stroke Centers and only another 150 hospitals that are capable of providing this kind of treatment.
No, not all hospitals are equipped the same way when it comes to treating stroke. The Joint Commission offers three advanced levels of certification for stroke programs in Joint Commission-accredited hospitals:
- Acute Stroke Ready Hospital – lowest level of stroke certification
- Primary Stroke Center – intermediate level of stroke certification
- Comprehensive Stroke Center – highest level of stroke certification
Anyone of the above hospitals could call itself a “stroke center,” but the terms have very different meanings based on the type of certification they hold. There are also many hospitals that do not have an accreditation at all as a stroke center. These are the local community hospitals where many people find themselves when they are having a stroke.
Smaller hospitals, where most strokes are treated, usually do not have these types of capabilities. Typically, smaller hospitals focus only on giving a medication called tPA – also commonly referred to as a “clot busting” medication because helps to dissolve the clot that is preventing blood flow to the brain.
Clot busting medication is only effective for about 3-5 hours after the initial stroke symptoms appear. The stent retriever is effective for as much as 24 hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. Also, patients that receive treatment with a stent retriever go on to have far fewer disabilities than those who only receive tPA.
The use of stent retrievers is quickly becoming the standard of care for stroke patients, but unfortunately it is not always available. It is essential that in order for patients to receive the best and safest medical care available, patients should be transferred to a facility where stent retrieving technology is available.
If you are having a stroke or a loved one is having a stroke, it is critical that you make every effort to go to a comprehensive stroke center. The National Stroke Foundation provides a database of Comprehensive Stroke Centers. It is worth spending the 30-40 seconds reviewing the list of comprehensive stroke centers in your area since on average a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.
If you do find yourself at somewhere other than a comprehensive stroke center and you are stabilized, you should insist on a transfer to the most advanced stroke center in your area.
Michael A. Hill is an accomplished trial lawyer focusing on representing individuals who have suffered life changing injuries, including stroke and death. Michael practices in state and federal courts around the country and has argued cases in front of numerous appellate courts, including the Ohio Supreme Court. Michael has recorded several seven figure verdicts and settlements. Michael is a regular speaker for lawyers concerning litigation and trial practice. Michael is a member of The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40, Top 10 Nursing Homes Lawyers, Top 25 Medical Malpractice Lawyers, Super Lawyers: Rising Star, and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Michael is from Flint, Michigan and received his undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where he was introduced to his wife, Hilary. Michael received his law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Michael and Hilary live in Lakewood, Ohio. Michael is a Partner at Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers.