Stroke is a leading cause of injury and death in the United States. In past blogs, I have focused on preventative strategies for avoiding blood clots to the brain through identification and treatment of atrial fibrillation (“a fib”) and use of anticoagulation medications, such as coumadin and warfarin. I have also written about the use of clot busting medications (e.g., tPA) to lyse clots that form in the brain (thrombi) or that travel to the brain from other parts of the body (emboli). Three recent studies describe the benefits of another tool useful in preventing the devastating effects of stroke: thrombectomy.
What is a Thrombectomy?
Thrombectomy (or thromboembolectomy) is a procedure wherein a vascular specialist, such as an interventional radiologist, inserts a catheter into the clogged artery and physically removes any clot that is blocking the flow of blood to the brain. The three studies, published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), confirm the usefulness of thrombectomy when it is deployed in a timely manner.
The studies offer additional evidence that early treatment with thrombectomy devices can improve outcomes in stroke patients. The studies support positive findings from other longstanding sources. The key to success is that all patients were treated within 6 hours of symptom onset. 60% of patients who underwent thrombectomy returned to functional independence (compared with 36% of patients who were treated solely with clot busting medications).
In Ohio, medical negligence occurs when two elements are shown: (1) a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or nurse, is negligent or falls below accepted standards of medical care; and (2) the medical error causes harm. The “harm” can be obvious, like damage to an organ or death. But “harm” also includes denying access to treatment that can save the patient’s life or prevent injury. Thus, in the setting of stroke, a claim for medical malpractice may exist if a physician delays or fails to attempt to reestablish blood flow to the brain by timely ordering thrombectomy.