Advance with MUSC Health

Making Advanced Stroke Care a Reality for Pee Dee Residents

Advance With MUSC Health
February 10, 2021
Florence County EMTs and Thrombectomy Crew

By: Kat Hendrix, Ph.D.

This week, MUSC Health’s Florence Medical Center continues to provide emergency thrombectomy–a brain-saving procedure to re-open blocked blood vessels after a stroke. “I got the tele-stroke request for an acute consult about 5:45 a.m., and by 6:30 they’d already done the imaging and were taking the patient into the angio-suite to open the blocked blood vessels. It was really impressive how quickly it went,” says Christine Holmstedt, M.D., medical director of Clinical Stroke Services and co-director of the Comprehensive Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center at MUSC Health.

Andrew Nicholson, M.D., the neurointerventional radiologist performing the thrombectomy explains why speed is so critical, “Strokes like this one, with a blockage in a main blood vessel, can be very devastating or even fatal. One statistic is that the patient loses 1-2 million brain cells every minute a large vessel stays blocked. The longer it takes to restore that blood flow, the more brain damage is done.”

The ability to do this advanced procedure locally in the Pee Dee region is the result of a year of planning and training. Previously, patients lost valuable time being transported to distant healthcare centers where high-level stroke care was available. By the time they arrived, many were no longer eligible for a thrombectomy. “This is the absolute best treatment as long as the brain tissue is still salvageable," says Nicholson. "But if too much time has passed, re-opening the vessel can trigger a significant bleed. The ability to provide this service here is a game-changer for people in the Pee Dee who have these types of strokes.”

It took many months of training to develop this team of skilled healthcare providers who work in close coordination to assess and treat stroke patients while moving at top speed. “By far, the biggest investment we made was in the people and training. They need to be really comfortable with what’s happening when they get these cases, and this one could not have gone more smoothly,” says Holmstedt. Outreach and training also included first responders to ensure they were aware that advanced stroke treatment is now locally available. “Everyone, starting with the EMTs did a fantastic job. They identified her stroke symptoms quickly and took the patient to the right place. With a stroke, it really does matter where you get taken. There’s only one chance to get a stroke response right,” says Holmstedt.

Nicholson is optimistic about the patient’s recovery and outcomes for those who will follow. “The patient is stable in the ICU and we’re hopeful. Being able to treat this type of stroke here gives these patients their best chance possible and vastly increases their odds of a good recovery.”