'Game-changing' stroke treatment rolled out

Paul Kelso, Health Correspondent

A 'mechanical' brain operation that deploys a wire mesh to retrieve blood clots in stroke patients is to be extended across England, potentially treating 1,000 people in the next year.

Up to 24 specialist neuroscience centres will be able to carry out mechanical thrombectomies after NHS England agreed to commission the operation nationwide.

It is currently only practised at a handful of specialist centres including St George's Hospital in London.

The procedure works by inserting a catheter in an artery in the patient's groin, which is then fed through to the site of the blood clot in the brain.

A stent - a wire mesh - is then pushed through the catheter on the end of a wire until it reaches the clot. The stent then expands, catches the clot and is withdrawn through the catheter.

The operation, usually carried out with the patient under sedation rather than general anaesthetic, has an 80-90% chance of opening blocked blood vessels compared with 30% using blood-thinning drugs.

If carried out within six hours of the stroke occurring it can save lives and, by restoring blood flow to the brain, prevent disability.

Connor Lynes, from Hull, was just 14 when he had a stroke in March 2015 after being tackled by two older boys in a rugby match.

A torn artery in his neck had caused a clot, resulting in a stroke.

Despite being warned to prepare for the worst, Connor was given a thrombectomy and enough of the clot was removed to restore some blood flow to his brain.

Within days of his stroke, he defied doctors' expectations and began talking, smiling, moving and even wrote his name.

Connor is now back at home and working on raising awareness of stroke in younger people.

NHS England believes extending access to mechanical thrombectomies will save the service millions of pounds in long-term care to stroke victims.

The treatment is expected to begin being phased in across the country later this year and could treat about 8,000 patients in the coming years.

Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK and is estimated to cost the NHS £3bn every year.

Treating stroke is one of the NHS' priorities as it attempts to balance rising demand with a constrained budget.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens welcomed the measure and, in an apparent criticism of coverage of the service, claimed such innovations were often ignored.

"This major national upgrade to stroke services puts the NHS at the leading edge of stroke care internationally," he said.

"It's another practical example of the NHS quietly expanding innovative modern care that will really benefit patients, but which tends to be invisible in the public debate about the NHS."

Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said the operation was "a game changer".

"This decision by NHS England could give thousands of critically ill stroke patients an increased chance of making a better recovery.

"It could mean more stroke survivors living independently in their own homes, returning to work and taking control of their lives again as a result. And this will undoubtedly lower NHS and social care costs for stroke."

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes