Rapid Stroke Treatment

When it comes to stroke, time really is brain: About 2 million neurons die every minute that oxygen is cut off from the brain. That’s why people taken immediately to a comprehensive stroke center have the best chance of surviving a stroke — and retaining their ability to function.

The stroke team at Virginia Mason works with local first responders and our Emergency Department to provide fast and effective emergency stroke care.

tPA: Clot-busting Medication

More than 85 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes — caused by a blood clot blocking blood flow to the brain, and cutting off its supply of oxygen. In treating stroke, the imperative is to restore the flow of blood as quickly as possible.

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only drug approved by the FDA to treat ischemic stroke. Called a “clot-busting” drug, tPA helps reopen a blood vessel by dissolving blood clots.

At Virginia Mason, the stroke team is mobilized and ready when the ambulance arrives at the Emergency Department. The stroke team immediately evaluates the patient and performs imaging to determine the size and location of the blood clot. If appropriate, a specially-trained pharmacist determines the correct dosage of tPA for the patient.

tPA is often effective in dissolving blood clots in smaller blood vessels. If a large vessel is blocked, however, immediate endovascular treatment in Virginia Mason’s stroke catheterization lab offers patients the best chance of recovery.

Endovascular Thrombectomy for Large-Vessel Clots
Endovascular thrombectomy is a minimally-invasive procedure that surgeons use to remove a blood clot from a large vessel. It involves threading a catheter through the femoral artery (located at the crease at the top of the leg), up through main artery of the body, the aorta, and into arteries in the neck that supply the brain.

Various devices delivered through the catheter can be used to remove the clot. These include stent retrievers — which are deployed in the clot so it can be pulled out — and suction devices to pull the clot back into the catheter for removal.

Recent advancements in device technology have made endovascular thrombectomy a powerful tool for breaking up blood clots. These developments, in fact, are unprecedented in medicine, with five randomized controlled trials recently published in a single year showing powerful benefit of this therapy (a first in medicine) in both restoring function — and savings lives — of people who have suffered a major stroke.

Why Choose Virginia Mason for Stroke Care?
Virginia Mason is a certified comprehensive stroke center and has been performing these acute stroke endovascular procedures for more than 15 years. Other regional hospitals will often administer intravenous tPA and then emergently transport patients here for further treatment by our team in a highly sophisticated neurovascular angiography suite.

Our highly experienced interventional radiology team has become well known regionally, providing stroke coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When it comes to stroke, the goal is to saves lives and preserve independence. At Virginia Mason, we have the expertise and the technology to do just that.