NHS England expands ‘game changing’ stroke treatment

Tying surgical apron

Thousands of stroke patients will be saved from lifelong disability after NHS England decided to invest millions of pounds in a new treatment hailed as a “game changer”.

An estimated 8,000 people a year will benefit from a massive expansion in the number of hospitals offering mechanical thrombectomy.

The treatment is set to help patients who have certain types of acute ischaemic stroke – a severe form of the condition where a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked, often leading to long-term disability. If used within the first six hours of symptoms beginning to show, the procedure has been shown (in clinical trials) to significantly improve survival and quality of life by restoring blood flow and therefore limiting brain damage.

Prof Tony Rudd, National Clinical Director for stroke at NHS England, said: “The quality of care and survival rates for stroke are now at record levels, and NHS England is committed to fast-tracking new and effective treatments – particularly, as in this case, where they deliver long-term benefits for both patients and the taxpayer.

“We will therefore now be working with and investing in specialist stroke services across the country to ensure we can introduce this to all patients who would benefit, as soon as possible.”

As an ambulance service we know first-hand how devastating stroke can be for patients and their families. It’s estimated to cost the NHS around £3bn per year, with additional cost to the economy of a further £4bn in lost productivity, disability and informal care.

Mechanical thrombectomy is a clot-removal process, which aims to remove the obstructing blood clot or other material from arteries in the brain in stroke patients. This helps restore blood flow and limit the damage caused by the stroke.

With the patient under sedation and local anaesthetic, or under general anaesthetic, a catheter is inserted through a large blood vessel, usually in the groin. The clot is located through a cerebral angiography – where dye and X-rays are used to see how blood flows through the arteries in the neck and brain.

The clot retrieval device is then inserted through a catheter, and positioned near the side of the clot. The aim is to remove the clot as soon as possible, within a few hours of the stroke.

You can find out more about mechanical thrombectomy, and the clinical trials behind it, on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website.

Published 20th April, 2017

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