SAMC doctors save stroke patients

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) To recognize if someone is having a stroke you use the acronym “fast,” but how do doctors treat a stroke patient? Doctors at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, (SAMC) use a cutting-edge procedure not offered within 100-miles of Dothan.

SAMC Stroke Procedure

Since November of 2016 SAMC has treated more than 150 stroke patients in their stroke program.
With the help of Wiregrass Life Flight, the hospital has saved the lives of people from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

"As much as 30 to 40% of the country still doesn't have anybody that still does this kind of work," explained Dr.Whapham, SAMC Neuroendovascular Surgeon.

SAMC does a minimally-invasive procedure known as “neuroendovascular surgery” to treat blood clots and aneurysms in the brain.

"All done through small little incisions with a needle where everything is threaded up through wires and catheters,” said Whapham. “All the way up through vessels in the leg or the arm, all the way up to the head and neck to work in the brain. "We kind of go out and through it get to the other side of it and deploy kind of basket to pull it back. Pop it open like you would pop open an umbrella in the rain."

The procedure can be as quick as five minutes or take several hours based on the severity. Regardless of operation time, the patient leaves with only a band-aid on their leg from the IV site.

"Before 1995 or 1996 we had nothing to offer stroke victims so we would just diagnose them and leave them in an ICU with disability,” mentioned Whapham. “After 1996 we had this IV medication called Activase that we would give patients."

Activase, also known as “TPA” dissolves blood clots, but it isn't always successful. That's when the doctors suit up in uniforms made of lead to protect themselves from the radiation, and operate on the stroke patients.

Sometimes the procedure is done while patients are awake.

"With some mild sedation and very often they get better while you're working on them,” exclaimed Whapham. "It’s very immediate and quite gratifying clinically because you see them get better in front of you."

The surgery has a more than 90% overall success rate.

SAMC is looking to extend their stroke network. That way their neurosurgery department can give guidance via video chat to other hospitals who are new to doing neuroendovascular surgeries.

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