Clot-busting drug initiative led to other stroke treatment advances

Dr. Jennifer Bestard

A successful project to speed up the time stroke patients are given clot-busting drugs has led to further life-saving treatment.

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre held an event this week to tout the success of a project to drastically reduce the time in diagnosing, beginning stroke treatment and administering a drug called tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator), which immediately begins breaking down blood clots and restoring blood supply.

The year-long initiative has seen the average time until tPA is administered from 70 minutes to 36 minutes, and in many cases much faster. The quickest the necessary diagnosis, treatment and tPA injecting has happened is six minutes.

Speed is so critical in stroke treatment because for every minute blood supply to the brain is blocked two million brain cells die.

Related story: Clot-busting drug breakthrough

Alberta Health professionals have not stopped with that breakthrough.

“This is a really important project because it has laid the foundation for another project,” said Red Deer neurologist Dr. Jennifer Bestard.

“Not only can we give this tPA clot-buster, we now have the ability now … to go in and pull out large clots,” said Bestard, who is co-chair of the Endovascular Reperfusion Alberta committee.

“We moved beyond just getting the tPA in as fast as we can (which is known as door-to-needle time in medical circles),” she said.

Patients suffering from a severe stroke caused by a large blood clot can be sent to the province’s comprehensive stroke centres in Edmonton or Calgary to have the clots pulled out.

“We’re not just looking at door-to-needle time at that point. We’re looking at door-in-door-out time — get them into Red Deer, get them their tPA quickly, and get them out to Edmonton or Calgary, where they can get the endovascular procedure.

“This (tPA) project, which has been so successful, has laid the ground work for this new project.”

Elaine Shand, stroke co-ordinator for the Central Zone, said the projects have involved health professionals from across the province.

“It’s been such a collaborative effort across the board and across the province.

“We have some amazing support from the major centres as well. There were a lot of different strategies we worked on together.

“The improvements we have made have been incredible.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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