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Study says removing stroke-causing clots helps patients regain their independence

In Kentucky, strokes cause about five percent of deaths, and the state had the 11th highest stroke mortality rate in 2009, according to data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Fewer than 40 percent of severe stroke victims regain functional independence if they get only the standard drug intervention, but a study has found that also removing the clot both helps restore blood flow to the brain and can lead to more favorable long-term outcomes.

“The outcomes are the difference between patients being able to care for themselves after stroke and being dependent,” said Demetrius Lopes, surgical director of the comprehensive stroke center at Rush University Medical Center.

The traditional treatment for ischemic stroke — a stroke that involves clots in vessels bringing blood to the brain — is intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a medication to dissolve the clot. However, doctors can also perform thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure to remove the clot that is allowed only in clinical trials.

In the study, patients with severe ischemic strokes were split into two groups. One group received only tPA, while the other group received tPA as well as thrombectomy. After 90 of 25 years, said the treatment “saved him from an early retirement.” She noted that before Duopa, he had been taking an “unmanageable” number of pills to treat his symptoms, but now, after he hooks up to the pump in the morning, “It is a set it and forget it kind of thing. … He is off and running like he always used to be, so that has been a great blessing.”

Because this treatment involves an invasive procedure and because most people with Parkinson’s disease respond well to oral medication initially, Slevin said this treatment is meant for those with advanced Parkinson’s symptoms. He also said the cost for this treatment is still being determined, but it was already approved by Medicare. He noted that the next step will be to train other medical centers in how to deliver this treatment.

The National Parkinson Foundation website says 1 million people in the U.S. have the disease, with 50,000 and 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Kentucky has 14,000 people with it, Tony Bucalo, Parkinson’s neuroscience account executive at AbbVie, said.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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