July 17, 2020

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. When a stroke occurs 200,000 neurons die every minute. So, it's essential for a stroke victim to receive treatment as quickly as possible. The current standard is within three hours. But there may be hope for those who do not receive treatment within that three-hour window.

When a person has a stroke, they are administered a clot-busting drug alteplase, but it must be used within three hours of the stroke. If not, the likelihood of full recovery is very slim. Swedish Medical Center has participated in a groundbreaking study that offers promise for extending the treatment time for stroke victims. The study, led by Dr. Don Frei, showed promise for an experimental neuroprotective drug, combined with a surgical procedure to remove the clot, that could extend the treatment time for acute ischemic stroke patients. There is evidence the drug promotes brain cell survival, offering neuroprotection until the clot can be extracted. Compared to a placebo, almost 20 per cent more patients who received the experimental drug along with endovascular treatment outside of the three-hour window recovered from the devastating stroke.

"The research indicated that the neuroprotective drug given to those outside of the three-hour window can freeze the core and slow down the growth of the stroke," stated Dr. Frei. "This gives more time for physicians to treat the stroke patient and open up the affected artery. The drug offers the potential for a stroke patient arriving for treatment outside of the three-hour window to walk out of the hospital instead of suffering long-term or permanent paralysis."

This study was the largest study ever conducted for stroke patients involving over 1105 patients. Swedish Medical Center was one of the U.S. centers participating in the international study. The results from the study were published in the Lancet Medical Journal.

Dr. Frei also added, "An acute stroke is a devastating disease. Time is crucial. it's important when having a stroke, the patient be taken to a hospital certified to perform a catheter-based thrombectomy. The current protocol is to go to the nearest hospital, but it should be a hospital that is certified in stroke treatment, even if it's further away. This allows for a thrombectomy to be performed more quickly instead of going to a hospital not certified and having to be transported to another hospital."

Dr Frei, Director of Neurointerventional Surgery at Swedish Medical and past president of the Society of Neurointerventional Surgery, was a primary investigator for the study. "Swedish Medical Center was chosen for the study because of its reputation as one of the best stroke centers in the world" added Dr. Frei. "Swedish has extremely fast time metrics for the treatment of stroke and one of the highest incidents of independence at 90 days for major stroke victims." Swedish was the seventeenth hospital in the country certified as a comprehensive stroke center and is the third busiest hospital for stroke patients in the United States.