Local News

UNC Researchers Have New Option To Help Stroke Victims

Posted May 25, 2006 8:06 a.m. EDT

— A stroke is usually caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. The only two treatments doctors have had is to remove the clot either by dissolving it with a strong drug or physically removing it with a corkscrew. Now UNC Hospitals is one of 40 sites in the country testing a third option.

Lena Duncan had never worried about a stroke. However, she had an irregular heart beat called atrial fibrillation, which led to a stroke in January.

"I never thought about it because I kept my cholesterol down and my blood pressure was good," she said.

Because Duncan was on a blood thinner -- and beyond the three-hour window to get TPA, a clot-busting drug -- her doctors tried an experimental device called Neuro Flo.

"In North Carolina, she would probably be the first patient treated with this device," said Dr. Souvik Sen, a neurologist at UNC Hospitals.

A catheter goes through the groin into the abdominal aorta. One balloon blocks 70 percent of the blood flow below the two arteries that feed the kidneys, then later, a second balloon goes above the renal arteries.

"By that, it diverts blood flow away from the limbs towards the brain," Sen said.

The increased blood flow bypasses the brain's blocked vessel, which is what happened for Duncan. She had a moderate stroke -- a 13 on a 42-point stroke scale.

"Right after the treatment, it dropped from 13 to 6," Sen said.

Duncan said she is still undergoing therapy to help her walk again.

"I feel good everyday," she said.

TPA must be administered within three hours of symptoms. The clot-retrieval procedure must be done within eight hours. The new Neuro Flo device can be used within up to 10 or 12 hours. Researchers said it is safer, and it could potentially help more patients that could not be helped before.