Emergent Acute Stroke Therapy
The impact of ischemic stroke upon healthcare in the United States is staggering. Extensive research has attempted to unlock methods of safely restoring blood flow to the brain and protect patients from progression to permanent brain damage. In 1996, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the use of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) for use in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke in selected patients. This “clot-busting” medicine has been shown to improve patient outcomes when it is administered within the first few hours of a stroke. Among those patients who are not candidates for an intravenous medication, some may benefit from an endovascular method of removing a blood clot. Endovascular methods include navigating a small catheter (a hollow plastic tube) through the blood vessels to the location of the blockage and using one of several therapies. After a catheter is positioned within the blocked artery, tPA can be injected to dissolve the clot, or a device can be used to suction the clot (aspiration) or trap the clot and remove it from the body. Time is brain, which is why methods of opening a blocked artery are performed in the first few hours of an ischemic stroke.