A new procedure at CarePoint Health’s Christ Hospital works to reverse the aftermath of strokes.
Dr. David Parrella is an Interventional Neurologist from Interventional Neuro Associates, which serves several hospitals, including the CarePoint Health system. Parrella leads a team at Christ Hospital that performs the new procedure known as mechanical thrombectomy.
The emergency treatment works to unblock blood clots in the brain and reverse the symptoms of a stroke.
From the heart, to the brain
The origins of the procedure come from the treatment for heart attacks. Parrella said that when a heart attack occurs, there’s an occlusion, or blockage, in one of the blood vessels of the heart.
The treatment for heart attacks would require patients to go to a catheterization lab, receive an angiogram or x-ray of the blood vessels, and have the occlusion opened up through a procedure known as an angioplasty.
Parrella said that a study came out in 2015, which proved that occlusions in the blood vessels of the brain can be treated in the same way as in the heart. Since then, Parrella has been using the procedure, known as mechanical thrombectomy, to save stroke victims.
He said that the treatment opens up occlusions in the blood vessels of the brain, calling it a “tremendously powerful tool.”
Saving ‘the worst of the worst’
“What we’re able to do is take these patients who have the worst of the worst strokes, large vessel occlusions toward the main blood vessels in the brain, and we’re able to open it up,” he said. “Oftentimes if we get there soon enough, we’re able to reverse the symptoms.”
Symptoms that can be reversed include complete paralysis, the inability to talk, the inability turn the head, and the inability to understand.
According to Parrella, prior to the new procedure, the only approved treatment for such strokes included clot-busting medicine. However, he said very few patients qualified for it, and it wasn’t very effective.
The newer procedure works because, though the flow of blood is blocked to parts of the brain during a stroke, the blocked parts still receive a “collateral flow of blood.” As a result, those parts of the brain remain alive and undamaged for a short period time.
If the stroke patient receives the mechanical thrombectomy in time, blood flow can be restored to the blocked parts of the brain, preventing damage and restoring function.
Serving Bayonne and Jersey City
While the team is based out of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, Parrella said that Bayonne residents can receive the treatment. Bayonne is so close to Jersey City, most ambulances can get to Christ Hospital in under 20 minutes.
Since the treatment is time-sensitive and must be done immediately, the close proximity allows ambulances to bring residents from Bayonne to Christ Hospital in time for treatment.
Residents from other nearby municipalities can be treated, too, provided they can get to the hospital within the window needed to have the mechanical thrombectomy performed. Parrella said that Christ Hospital is the only facility in the county that offers the procedure.
The treatment comes at an important time, considering recent studies that have linked COVID-19 with an increase in the risk of stroke. Parrella acknowledged that COVID-19 has caused an increase in clotting in the blood, which can cause strokes. However, he said the increase is not profound.
Parrella said that with the mechanical thrombectomy, the number of strokes that can be treated has increased.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said, when they can reverse the debilitating symptoms of a stroke with the procedure.
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