A Brooklyn hospital is the first in the state to use a groundbreaking new procedure on stroke patients. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Just a week before he was lifting weights, 78-year-old Robert Skibo's left side was completely paralyzed. He was shopping at Walgreens when he suddenly fell.
"I said, 'I'm having a freakin' stroke,'" Skibo says.
Skibo was rushed to Lutheran Medical Center's Stroke Center.
"When the blood stops going to part of the brain, the brain starts to die," says Dr. Jeffrey Farkas, director of interventional neuroradiology at Lutheran Medical Center. "The faster you can restore blood flow, the better the outcome."
In Skibo's case, and five other patients at Lutheran, the massive clot was removed in a matter of minutes.
A three dimension x-ray gives surgeons a road map, sort of like a GPS, to the clot that is causing the stroke.
"We clean off the area around the leg, and then we put a small needle into the artery," Farkas said.
They then weave the flexible 5-Max Ace Reperfusion catheter up to the clot location in the brain.
The tool is also wide enough to place a tube inside.
"Just by attaching it to a powerful vacuum, we can suction out the clots within one to two minutes, as opposed to one to two hours," Farkas says.
Lutheran is the first hospital in New York State and the second in the world to perform the procedure. It's currently part of an ongoing stroke treatment trial.
For Skibo, that saved time meant avoiding a life of constant medical care, or even death.
"He'd probably need a feeding tube, not be able to eat on his own," says Dr. Salmon Azhar, director of the neurology department at Lutheran Medical Center. "This is how big that stroke was."
"I guess it wasn't my time or what," Skibo says, pointing to his doctor to show gratitude. "They probably saved me," he says.
Skibo, who isn't a part of the clinical trial, is lucky. In order to prove its efficacy, doctors can't perform the new procedure on every stroke patient.
"I feel like I hit the lotto," Skibo says.
The stroke team at Lutheran hopes the new catheter will eventually become commonplace.
With aging baby boomers, experts estimate that the number of strokes will reach 1 million per year in the U.S.
"If we can take just 25 percent of those people and get them to walk out of this hospital and go home, where they don't need anything else after that, that's millions of dollars of cost savings," Azhar says.