A revolutionary stroke procedure has the potential to save lives across Australia – but so far, regional areas are losing out.
Brisbane grandfather Geoff Woodlands was just a few months away from his 70th birthday when he suffered a stroke.
“My legs went jelly while I was having a shave and I collapsed in the bathroom,” he told A Current Affair.
“I never got any warning at all.”
His wife Coral got a call from Geoff while she was at work, and in turn called the ambulance.
“The ambos, you know, they got here really quickly and got me in there quick, and the procedure must have happened fairly quick,” Geoff said.
The procedure he underwent, endovascular clot retrieval, is a revolutionary treatment for stroke, performed by the likes of interventional neuro radiologists, Justin Whitley and David Leggett.
“What happens is, you’ve got a blood clot that is stuck within one of the larger arteries of the brain and our job is to try and pull that blood clot out,” Dr Whitley aid.
Dr Leggett likened the procedure to a “fishing trip” using x-ray guidance.
The tubes are generally inserted through an artery in the patient’s groin and fed all the way up to the location of the clot in the brain.
“We then pass a very fine wire through the blood clot itself,” Dr Whitley said.
“And then take a very small micro-catheter over that wire, through the blood clot, and then take the wire out of the micro-catheter, and then this gives us room within the micro-catheter to put in a stent, a device that we use to trap the clot.”
The clot is then pulled out – with, in some cases, almost immediate results for the patient.
Geoff himself remained in hospital for just five days following the procedure before heading home.
Coral said he had been hanging out the laundry the first day he came home.
Unfortunately, six months later, Geoff suffered another stroke – but the team at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital carried out the same procedure, with similar success.
Despite the success stories, only 10 to 20 percent of stroke victims are suitable for the operation, with a series of factors taken into consideration.
“Whether the stroke is due to a bleed on the brain, or whether it’s due to a blood clot on the brain, where the clot is and also the patient’s presentation,” Dr Whitley said.
“How bad is their neurology? How badly affected are they by the stroke?”
But Stroke Foundation clinical council chair Professor Bruce Campbell said while it might not sound like a large group, it was the group which had the biggest risk of suffering disability or death during a stroke.
Currently, the procedure is only available in most capital cities, but there are hopes regional centres will one day have access too.
“Absolutely they would be better if there was a centre up north and one out west, but at the same time we need lots and lots of resources,” stroke physician Dr Dashan Shah said.
Prof Campbell agreed.
“The practicality is that we can’t have the specialists who do this procedure in every part of rural Australia,” he said.
“So we need to use clever systems to identify patients who can benefit and transport them very efficiently to the centres where this treatment is available.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019