Strokes affect 800,000 people in the U.S. each year. Those who survive often suffer long-term impairments. Mary I. H. Cobb, MD, director of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery, explains why an innovative stroke treatment she provides at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville is a game-changer for Montgomery County.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood stops flowing to the brain. Strokes are most often caused by clots, or blockages, which can result in brain cell damage.

What is the most common stroke treatment?

Patients brought to a hospital within 4 hours, 30 minutes after their first symptoms can be candidates for a clot-busting medication called tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator. Shady Grove’s stroke program has earned national recognition for its speed in giving tPA after a patient arrives to our hospital. However, because of time restrictions and other criteria, not all stroke patients qualify for tPA. Also, if a clot is located in a large vessel, tPA may not be powerful enough.

What is the latest in stroke treatment?

Several clinical trials show patients with large blockages have much better outcomes with a treatment called mechanical thrombectomy. In this minimally invasive procedure, we access the femoral artery in the thigh and navigate wires and catheters into the vessels of the neck and brain. We then use a stent, which is a tiny tube to hold the passages open, to allow us to remove the blood clot. Once the clot is gone, the brain can again obtain the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Mechanical thrombectomy extends the time window for stroke treatment to 24 hours.

How is Shady Grove advancing its stroke care capabilities?

In June, we opened a specialized angiography suite with a biplane imaging machine that is among the most advanced in the U.S. We are the only hospital in Montgomery County with this latest technology and a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon on site to perform mechanical thrombectomy. These additions build on Shady Grove’s award-winning stroke and cardiac catheterization programs. Medicare data showed that in 2017, the D.C./Virginia/Maryland suburbs had the lowest mechanical thrombectomy rates in the U.S. Now, Adventist HealthCare is making sure our community has the timely, comprehensive stroke treatments it needs.

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