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Published on May 20, 2014

UHS Leads the Way in Stroke Response 

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and also marks nearly two years since UHS became the region’s premier location for stroke treatment. That distinction comes thanks to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at UHS Wilson Medical Center and its cutting-edge facility, the biplane angiography laboratory. Installed in June 2012, the biplane angiography system greatly increases the chance that, when a patient comes to the Emergency Room with symptoms of a stroke, the person will recover fully. “For a community the size of Greater Binghamton to be able to offer this type of treatment is remarkable,” said Prakash Ramanathan, special projects director for Neuroscience at UHS Hospitals.

Traditionally, the standard hospital treatment for an ischemic stroke - the most common type - is to intravenously administer a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which dissolves the blood clot. Unfortunately, tPA works only within three hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. For patients who arrive after a longer period of time has passed, there have been no good options. “The doctors try to minimize the impact of the stroke, but there was no conventional treatment,” Mr. Ramanathan noted.

At UHS Wilson, the new technology extends the window for treating a stroke from three hours to at least 12, and sometimes to 24. Today, once physicians confirm that a blood clot has formed, they use the biplane angiography technology to obtain a high-resolution, three-dimensional image of the blood vessels in the brain. Using that image as a map, they insert a thin, flexible catheter into an artery, usually near the groin, and maneuver it into the affected blood vessel.

The surgical team then choose between two courses of treatment.  One is to administer tPA directly to the clot through the catheter, a tactic that is effective up to six hours after the onset of symptoms.  The other course is to perform a mechanical thrombectomy, a method that uses a catheter to break up the clot. That procedure can be effective for up to 24 hours after symptoms begin. Because it expands the opportunity for treatment, and because it permits a minimally-invasive procedure, the new technology at UHS Wilson offers many more stroke patients the chance of a complete, quick recovery. “We’ve had success stories in which a patient has come in unable to move on their left or right side, or unable to speak,” Mr. Ramanathan said. “We’ve been able to retrieve the clot in their brain, and they’ve walked out of our Intensive Care Unit the next day with no residual effects.”