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What Is a Stroke Thrombectomy? Here's What You Should Know

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According to the American Stroke Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, which translates into nearly 800,000 people each year. In addition, every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke. Getting the best care quickly is essential to not only surviving a stroke but also living with limited disability. While there are many treatment options for a stroke, a thrombectomy could help.

What is a stroke thrombectomy?

A thrombectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that removes a blood clot from inside an artery in the brain. During this procedure, a small incision is made into a blood vessel in the groin, and a catheter is made to the blood vessel in the brain that is occluded using X-rays and contrast. The clot is removed, and the blood flow is restored. The procedure's objective is to reduce the damage caused to the brain by the lack of blood flow and restore as much injured tissue as possible to its normal function.

How does a blood clot form?

Normally, blood flows freely through your blood vessels, arteries and veins. Your arteries carry blood with oxygen and nutrients to your body, and your veins carry waste products back to the heart. When a clot forms, the blood thickens and clumps in one of these vessels, blocking blood flow. When blood flow is blocked, nearby tissues can be damaged.

Blood clots can cause many problems, such as:

  • Swelling, pain, numbness or tingling in an arm or leg
  • A cold feeling and/or muscle pain in the area
  • Enlarged veins
  • Death of tissue (as is the case in a stroke)
  • Organ damage
  • Pulmonary embolism (when the clot moves to the lung; this can be fatal)

Thrombectomies and stroke

In cases of ischemic stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain, a thrombectomy may be considered to remove the clot. Thrombectomies, when performed on select patients, can extend the treatment window for those with severe ischemic strokes. This offers a greater chance for recovery and improved outcomes.

Getting treatment quickly

If you are having a stroke, every second counts. Eligible patients should be immediately identified as candidates for a thrombectomy, which has been shown to make a marked recovery in the most severely disabling types of stroke. Evidence suggests that treating individuals within 24 hours from the onset of their symptoms still has an increased opportunity for improvement.

Learn more about Gabriel Vidal, MD

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