Health Watch

Reversing Paralysis: Jorge's 'Stroke' of Luck

Monday, July 23, 2012

In the time it takes you to read this story two people will have a stroke. They kill 133 thousand Americans each year. Half the people who survive a stroke will have some degree of paralysis, but doctors believe a new device could help that number drop dramatically.

Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke.

"Time is brain," Dileep R. Yavagal, M.D., director interventional neurology and co-director of endovascular neurosurgery at the University of Miami Health System, told Ivanhoe.

Jorge Lazo recently suffered a major stroke.

"My mouth was turning to the side," Jorge Lazo said.

"I thought that he was not going to be alive," Beatriz Rodriguez, Jorge's girlfriend, said.

Two blood clots stopped the flow of blood and oxygen to his brain, paralyzing the left side of his body.

"This is the kind of stroke that leaves the patient disabled for life," Dr. Yavagal said.

Clot-busting drugs couldn't dissolve the blockages, but doctor Dileep Yavagal at Jackson Memorial Hospital had something brand new to try on Jorge, something FDA approved just 29 days before Jorge's stroke. Five and half hours after the stroke the doctor performed a catheter-based surgery with the solitaire device. Once in the brain the closed mesh tube goes through the clot. Then the tube opens up and grabs it.

"Allowing us to retain the clot as we're pulling the device out of the body," Dr. Yavagal said.

Studies show solitaire is twice as effective as similar clot-removing tools.

"The procedure went really fast," Dr. Yavagal said. "I was able to get both clots out within the hour."

When the blood flow was restored something amazing happened.

"He lifted his leg right off the bed, which was so thrilling," Dr. Yavagal said. Jorge regained function of his left side. He's able to walk and thanks to rehab is lifting his left arm too.

"Usually patients need more time to achieve what he's achieving," Dr. Ana Delgado, M.D., a neurologist and neuro rehabilitation fellow at the University of Miami Health System, said.

He's mobile because of a micro-blood clot remover that made it to market just in the nick of time. Jorge is now home and is doing outpatient rehab to help restore more of his function. The doctor tells us he's gotten similar paralysis reversing results with other patients he's used the solitaire device on. He says the biggest risk with the device is bleeding in the brain, but the risk is lower than with similar devices.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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