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Life-saving treatment transforms stroke care at Mercy Hospital

COON RAPIDS, Minn. 5/1/2018  A new procedure at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, part of Allina Health, has been transforming stroke care and the clinical outcomes of patients being treated for stroke. The procedure, called mechanical thrombectomy, is a breakthrough treatment saving lives and helping to prevent brain damage.

In stroke care, minutes matter. Traditionally, patients with a stroke caused by a blood clot in some of the larger arteries that feed the brain are given thrombolytic medications (tPA), which are clot-dissolving medications. Yet this treatment is less helpful three hours after onset of symptoms, not helpful at all at 4.5 hours after symptoms start, and is less successful for very large strokes.

Now Mercy Hospital’s neuro-interventional radiologists can perform a mechanical thrombectomy. This cutting-edge procedure involves introducing a small device up into the brain arteries and removing the clot, restoring the blood flow that supplies and oxygen/nutrients to that area of the brain.

"It's the most important scientific advance in my career by far, in terms of the number of people it affects and the dramatic nature in which it does,” said neuro-interventional radiologist Dr. Michael Madison, who is president and CEO of St. Paul Radiology, the group that provides this specialty care to Mercy Hospital.

Since Aug. 2, more than 40 patients have had this procedure at Mercy Hospital "with phenomenal outcomes," said Dr. Michael Schwemm, medical director of the Mercy Hospital Emergency Department. "We have had several patients that came in gravely ill, completely paralyzed on one side of the body, or with clots in extremely dangerous areas of the brain that have been able to walk out of the hospital and return to their homes, work, and lives. We have been amazed with the outcomes."

The dramatic benefits of the procedure were demonstrated when a 67-year-old man came into the Mercy Emergency Department with sudden extreme nausea, dizziness and left-sided weakness so severe that he was unable to stand. He was found to have a stroke in the base of his brain (a basilar artery occlusion) -- a devastating stroke that could have resulted in death or paralysis. He was given clot-dissolving medications in the Emergency Department, then underwent a mechanical thrombectomy, which completely removed the clot causing his stroke. Today he feels fortunate to be alive, enjoying daily walks with his dog, and is looking forward to fishing and hunting.

Emergency physicians, neurologists, intensivists and neuro-interventional radiologists have collaborated to make the procedure a reality at Mercy Hospital. The procedure is relatively new, and specialized, but is gaining traction across the country. Mercy Hospital is the only hospital providing the treatment between Minneapolis and Duluth to the north and between Minneapolis and St. Cloud to the northwest.

About Allina Health

Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A not-for-profit health care system, Allina Health cares for patients from beginning to end-of-life through its 90+ clinics, 11 hospitals, 15 retail pharmacies, specialty care centers and specialty medical services, home care, and emergency medical transportation services.