Doctors know that speed is essential in minimizing the damaging effects of stroke. But what’s in their arsenal to treat it?
First and foremost, the type and location of the stroke must be identified. To aid the stroke team, St. Anthony’s Medical Center has a biplane angiography unit, an imaging system that obtains very clear, three-dimensional rotational images of blood vessels prior to and during actual clot-busting procedures. The technology makes neurological procedures easier and safer.
The stroke team injects a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA into the veins. tPA is the only FDA-approved clot-busting medicine available, and it must be used within three hours of the onset of a stroke.
Strict guidelines govern the use of tPA. Patients may not be able to receive it if they have had:
At St. Anthony’s Medical Center, some patients who are beyond the three-hour time limit may still be able to receive tPA intra-arterially — by threading a catheter through an artery and then injecting the drug directly at the site of the clot. Not many hospitals offer this advanced option because it takes a skilled physician to maneuver a catheter through the body and into the brain.
There are other options available. In these procedures, physicians must be careful to capture all of the pieces of the clot so that new blockages don’t form farther in the brain.