Erlanger leads “history making” breakthrough in stroke treatment

Erlanger’s stroke team played a key role in a breakthrough treatment for acute stroke, following a series of successful clinical trials hailed as representing “a new era” and “sea change” in stroke treatment around the world.

Dr. Tom Devlin, Chairman of Erlanger’s Neurosciences Department, along with Dr. Blaise Baxter, Chief Neurointerventional radiologist at Erlanger and Dr. Biggya Sapkota, neurologist and co-director of the Erlanger Southeast Regional Stroke Center, principal investigators in worldwide stroke research trials, recently reported the impressive results of their research work at an Erlanger press conference this week.

Dr. Devlin and Dr. Baxter

Drs. Tom Devlin and Blaise Baxter

The three specialists announced that Erlanger’s stroke team was honored this month at the International Stroke Conference (ISC) for enrolling more stroke patients than any of the 68 international study sites, achieving the best medical outcomes among all the centers participating in the international study and setting a benchmark for the fastest treatment times – outperforming every other global participant in the study.

The history-making result of the international clinical trials is that endovascular treatment has become the new standard of care for acute or ischemic stroke. Neurointerventional radiologist Dr. Blaise Baxter, explained that this new treatment of choice involves the use of tiny “clot plucking” or “clot sucking” extractors threaded through a stroke patient’s blood vessels to remove blood clots on the brain.  Since 1996, a clot-dissolver drug has been a standard treatment for stroke patients – one that has not been proven effective for large vessel blood clots.

“For the last 20 years, we’ve had a complete blackout in new and approved stroke treatment,” Dr. Devlin told reporters, noting that the new standard of care for stroke “represents a historic day and the culmination of work we have done since 1999.”

During the press conference, reporters were shown videos of several patients upon arrival at Erlanger’s stroke center and immediately following their endoscopy procedures. One was an 83-year old man who was fully alert and talking after his treatment and who “would probably not have survived, or been in a nursing home without the endoscopy,” according to Dr.Baxter.

Previous detractors of this endovascular treatment method are now calling it “a sea change, a “new day in stroke” and “the biggest advance in stroke treatment since 1996.”  One self-professed skeptic, ISC program chair, said that the results of the trials are consistent and convincing, adding, “We are now obligated to use this technology in eligible stroke patients with a large vessel occlusion.”

Dr. Sapkota

Biggya Sapkota, MD, Director of Acute Stroke Services, Co-Director of Southeast Regional Stroke Center

Dr. Devlin addressing attendees

Tom Devlin, MD, PhD CCI, Department Chairman of Erlanger Neuroscience Department, Co-Director of Southeast Regional Stroke Center

Dr. Baxter

Blaise Baxter, MD, Chief Neurointerventional Radiologist at Erlanger