New stroke treatment to benefit thousands

Thousands of people in England who have a stroke may benefit from advanced emergency treatment that can significantly reduce the risk of long-term disability, says the Stroke Association.

An estimated 8,000 people will be helped by the new treatment each year – and it could save the NHS millions in long-term health and social care costs.

NHS England has confirmed it will make the treatment – called mechanical thrombectomy – more widely available to those who have certain types of acute ischaemic stroke. This is a severe form of stroke where a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked, often leading to long-term disability. Thrombectomy reduces the amount of brain damage caused by a stroke by restoring blood flow. If used within the first six hours of symptoms beginning to show, it has been shown to significantly improve your chances of surviving as well as your quality of life.

The treatment is expected to be available later in the year, and according to NHS England, an estimated thousand patients will benefit from the new treatment within the first year of it being used. Many more are expected to receive the treatment in coming years.

“Stroke is the fourth biggest killer in the UK and a leading cause of disability,” says Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association. “Current treatment options are limited and do not always work. Thrombectomy is a real game changer which can change lives and reduce the chances of someone being severely disabled after a stroke.

“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.”

Stroke service updates

NHS stroke services, however, have to be updated and many more trained professionals are needed before thrombectomy services can be rolled out fully across the country. One hospital that has a fully staffed thrombectomy service is St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Its Hyper Acute Stroke Unit already treats more than 1,200 people who have had a stroke each year, with the thrombectomy procedure carried out by interventional neuroradiologists.

“This is great news for patients,” says Dr Jeremy Madigan, consultant diagnostic and interventional neuroradiologist at St George’s. “Our patients are benefiting from the thrombectomy service we provide, with an 80 – 90 percent chance of opening up blocked vessels via this technique, compared to 30 percent with traditional clot-busting drugs.”

The earlier a stroke is treated, the better your chance of making a good recovery. That means it’s essential to know the signs to look out for. Public Health England’s stroke awareness campaign promotes the FAST principle:

  • Face – has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • Arms – can they raise both their arms and keep them there?
  • Speech – is their speech slurred?
  • Time to call 999.

If you notice any single one of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call for an ambulance immediately.

Find out more by reading Stroke: would you know when to call 999?

May is the Stoke Association’s annual stroke awareness month, when people are invited to show their support for people who’ve been affected by stroke. Find out how you can help by making May purple.

Having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol can increase your risk of stroke. If you need advice on managing your blood pressure and/or cholesterol, speak to your local Careway pharmacist (many pharmacies also offer blood pressure and cholesterol testing). Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.