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25 January 2018

Ground-breaking procedure allows stroke sufferer to walk out of hospital three days later

A stroke sufferer who became the first Bay of Plenty man to undergo a ground-breaking procedure is welcoming in 2018 with a sense of gratitude and relief.

"I am very lucky," says Omokoroa resident George Stirling, who underwent Endovascular Clot Retrieval last September. "There's no doubt about that."

Prior to the stroke George's GP had observed irregularities on an ECG test and sent him to Tauranga Hospital for further investigations. It was whilst he was a hospital inpatient that the stroke occurred.

"I was chatting with the hospital chaplain and then all of a sudden I'm just talking gobbledygook," says the 82-year-old, who remembers very little of what happened next. Consultant Stroke Physician and Geriatrician Dr Mohana Maddula takes up the story.

"George had acute ischaemic stroke due to blockage (clot) in one of the major blood vessels in the brain," said Dr Maddula. "The clot was stopping blood flow to the brain and there was a risk of permanent brain injury which could lead to significant long-term disability and death. After urgent brain scans and discussion with specialists in Auckland he was transferred by helicopter to Auckland City Hospital for Endovascular Clot Retrieval.

"This is a ground-breaking new treatment where a device is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin up into the brain, to extract the clot and restore blood flow to the affected region of the brain."

The procedure is undertaken by Interventional Neuroradiologists and is currently only provided in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It is not suitable for all stroke sufferers. The procedure needs to be performed as soon as possible after the onset of stroke symptoms, meaning the patient needs to present to hospital quickly, a helicopter be available, and the weather conditions be suitable for transfer.

"This procedure is very time-critical," said Dr Maddula. "George arrived at Auckland City Hospital in good time and had this emergency procedure soon after arrival. The clot was extracted and blood flow was restored.

"George returned to Tauranga Hospital the next day and was discharged home a couple of days later. He walked home, almost completely recovered from his stroke. Without this procedure it was very likely that he would've suffered long-term disability and may not have been able to return to his 'normal life'."

George is now relishing that 'normal life' which includes regular Thursday motorbike rides with a group of friends. He also hopes to get back to playing golf in the future as well.

"I'm just very thankful to all the doctors and nurses involved in my care. I'm very aware that it could've turned out so differently for me."

George was the first Bay of Plenty patient to undergo Endovascular Clot Retrieval. The Bay of Plenty District Health Board is working with colleagues in Auckland to develop and streamline this treatment pathway for patients like him.

"A lot more work needs to be done to make this treatment available for the whole BOP region," said Dr Maddula. "We were lucky with George because when he had the stroke, the helicopter and flight team were available and the weather was good. To consistently provide this treatment 24/7 we need to develop transfer systems that are readily available and can operate in all weather conditions." 

Ground-breaking-procedure
George Stirling (right) with wife Alison (left). George was the first Bay of Plenty patient to undergo Endovascular Clot Retrieval, after suffering a stroke in September. 

James Fuller
Communications Advisor
Bay of Plenty District Health Board

Last updated: August 29, 2018