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What Is a Stroke and How Can Thrombectomy Help?
Ashley Davis

What Is a Stroke and How Can Thrombectomy Help?

What is a stroke?

A stroke is sudden damage to part of the brain from a problem with a blood vessel. About 90% of the time, that’s due to a blood clot or blockage, which chokes off oxygen or nutrients to part of the brain, and the other 10% of the time that can be bleeding into an area of the brain.


What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

A stroke is damage to one side of the brain, which results in problems with one side of the body. To remember what symptoms to look for, we ask people to remember the acronym “BE FAST” — Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech and Time (a reminder to get to the hospital as quickly as possible). A stroke is sudden damage, and you can have a sudden onset of any of those problems, so any time you notice somebody exhibiting them, you should take action.

What do you do if you think you’re having a stroke?

We advise people to call 911 as soon as possible. At first, people aren’t sure what’s going on and may give the symptoms some time, but calling 911 is important because responders can evaluate a patient, get them into the ambulance safely, and get them to the hospital quicker. Hospitals have protocols to evaluate people and get them treated as quickly as possible, and ambulances know the locations of the designated stroke centers in the area. They’re even able to call ahead so the emergency room is prepared for when a patient shows up.

What is thrombectomy?

There are two major treatments for stroke: clot-busting medication and thrombectomy. Thrombectomy is a procedure that opens up an artery to break down or pull out a blood clot. We will administer medicine immediately, but for certain people, we also perform a thrombectomy, which uses a catheter that we insert into an artery while the patient is under general anesthesia or sedation. With the surgeon navigating by X-ray, the catheter is guided through the artery to the location of the blood clot. Instruments are then routed through the catheter to break up, dissolve or remove the clot, which restores blood flow as quickly as possible.

What does it mean for Barnes-Jewish St. Peters to be a thrombectomy-capable stroke center?

It means we’ve gone to our commissioning body to prove we can do thrombectomy and do it excellently. There are levels of certification, and we’ve been doing it at the highest level for the past two years. We’re able to provide thrombectomy 24 hours a day and provide all of the appropriate follow-up care to make sure we’re giving patients all of the treatment available.

Why is it important to have this type of center in St. Charles County?

The biggest reason is that time is critical for a stroke. Damage starts immediately, and about two million neurons can die every minute the blockage remains. Having access to this level of care in St. Charles County shaves off crucial minutes to make sure we’re giving our neighbors the best chance at reducing or even getting rid of symptoms from a stroke. Patients are able to get treatment closer to home, and we partner with rehabilitation centers in the region to provide care after a stroke. Most patients still have some trouble following a stroke and need help with rehabilitation, so keeping them close to home means they can coordinate care more easily.

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