The Medical Minute: Solitaire for stroke -- It's not a game

By Kevin M Cockroft

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in North America -- down from third. Despite this "improvement," stroke remains the leading cause of adult disability. Ischemic strokes, caused by blood vessel blockages, are by far the most common type of stroke. For ischemic strokes, early intervention is crucial. The only drug FDA approved for the treatment of ischemic stroke is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Unfortunately, this drug must be given very soon after stroke onset, within the first three hours for most people and up to four and a-half hours for some.

The Solitaire device, produced by Covidien Inc. of Irvine, Calif., is the first of a new class of devices called stent-retrievers to be approved in the United States for the treatment of . Devices like Solitaire, which mechanically break up and remove clots, can be used up to eight hours or longer after a stroke, thus increasing the time window for patients to be treated.

Unlike the first generation retrieval devices, Solitaire is relatively easy to use and has a high success rate at opening blocked arteries. The device uses a retrievable basket-like stent to capture the clot, allowing it to be pulled from the blocked vessel. Patients suffering a stroke from a large artery blockage tend to make a much better recovery if the vessel is reopened than if the blockage is left in place or cannot be removed. Penn State Hershey Medical Center is the first and only hospital in this region to have access to this new, innovative device.

Despite advances in the treatment of stroke, many patients still do not make it to the hospital early enough to benefit from these advances. It is important for patients to remember the of stroke:

-- sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg;
-- sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech; and
-- a sudden, very severe headache.

The sooner patients get medical attention the more treatment options they will have and the more likely it will be that they will receive a beneficial stroke treatment. Even though it may not hurt, a stroke is a medical emergency where minutes matter early on, for both initial treatment and future recovery.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Most women don't know female-specific stroke signs

date 19 hours ago

A national survey released today by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows that most women don't know the risks or symptoms females face when it comes to having a stroke.

Controlling arterial tone and blood flow in the brain

date 23 hours ago

Researchers have performed the first human-based study to identify calcium channels in cerebral arteries and determine the distinct role each channel plays in helping control blood flow to the brain. The ...

Saturated fatty acids might directly damage heart

date Apr 27, 2015

Olive oil is universally considered a much healthier alternative to meat fat. Plant-derived oils (such as olive oil, canola oil, and vegetable oil) largely consist of unsaturated fatty acids, whereas animal ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.