Neurology

Stroke care: Every minute counts

Increased public awareness, rapid response times, and new treatment options are the key to successful stroke care.

5 min
Published on May 20, 2021

During a stroke, up to 1.9 million brain cells die each minute. [1] Rapid response, diagnosis, and treatment can therefore play a decisive role in the progression of the illness and the likelihood of long-term damage. Greater public awareness of early symptoms and deployment of the latest technological developments and treatment options constitute a major step forward for stroke patients.

When a stroke occurs, fast action is paramount. The sooner a patient receives treatment after the first symptoms begin, the better their chances of avoiding lasting impairments. Stroke is the second most common cause of death worldwide [2] and a leading cause of long-term disability. [3] Accordingly, early recognition of the first signs – such as sudden paralysis on one side of the body, impaired vision and speech, or numbness in one arm or leg or on one side of the face – can save lives. The FAST test offers a way to assess a suspected stroke in next to no time, enabling the observer to respond as quickly as possible.

How to recognize the signs of stroke fast.
Rapid progress in diagnostics and treatment options have helped to significantly reduce mortality following a stroke over the last 30 years. This is why efforts to improve treatment and bolster prevention will continue in future. For a long time, observing external symptoms such as paralysis was the only way that a diagnosis could be attempted. A significant breakthrough in stroke diagnosis came with the invention of computed tomography in the 1970s.

A few years later, the emergence of magnetic resonance imaging and Doppler and duplex sonography made it possible to gather detailed information on cases of stroke. Yet even the most precise diagnosis is of little use without treatment options. It was not until the development of a drug therapy (thrombolysis) in the mid-90s that acute treatment for strokes became possible. Thanks to further pioneering work, since around 2008 another option for treatment of vascular occlusions besides thrombolysis has been available: mechanical thrombectomy.
Mechanical thrombectomy is a promising approach in ischemic stroke treatment. All over the world, interventional radiologists are working to provide access to catheter therapy to as many patients as possible who might benefit from this form of therapy. Early treatment by thrombectomy requires coordinated cooperation within the hospital, as well as optimal equipment. However, there are still a number of hurdles to be overcome before this therapy can become widely available.

Christian Loewe, MD, Head of the Department of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology at Medical University Vienna

Thanks to robot-based systems , stroke patients around the world could benefit from this method in the future. The CorPath GRX systems developed by Corindus already allow physicians to precisely control interventions in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, such as those involving placement of balloon or stent implants. In future, the physician may not have to be directly beside the operating table for interventions of this sort, and could theoretically guide the procedure from a separate control module anywhere in the world.
Angio only suite for stroke management
According to Professor Marios Psychogios, head of the Neuroradiology Department at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, the latest workflows can save 30 to 60 minutes in the hospital by combining preprocedural imaging and treatment of stroke patients in the angio suite.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in three patients must contend with lasting damage following a stroke. [4] Long-term complications for stroke survivors can take many forms, and depend on the size of the damaged brain area. Learn about the personal stories of three stroke patients in these videos. Discover how rapid response and treatment helped them to regain a normal life.

Access to acute stroke care and modern treatment options such as thrombectomy remains limited. As a result, stroke patients currently have a high likelihood of being left with physical impairments or more severe consequences. Could digital twins one day help warn of a stroke before the first symptoms occur?
Video on how a digital twin could change the progression of the disease in the future.