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New stroke treatment should be more available

Specialists are urging the NHS to make a new stroke treatment widely available.

New stroke treatment should be more availableStudies suggest the technique for removing blood clots in the brain doubles the chance of recovery for people who have suffered an ischaemic stroke.

The specially designed “Solitaire” stent is highly effective at catching and removing blood clots. However, it is currently only available at 28 specialist hospitals in the UK.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in the UK, and the treatment could benefit a quarter of patients who have a particular type of blood clot in the brain.

Stents are normally used to hold open or strengthen damaged blood vessels, but experts realised this particular device was a very effective way to “catch” and remove blood clots.

The Solitaire stent is made of a nickel-titanium alloy and looks like a net.

The Solitaire stent is used more widely to treat strokes in nearly every other developed nation. In the UK, it is only being used in hospitals that specialise in interventional neuroradiology – and there are only 28 of those.

Anyone who has an ischaemic stroke needs to get to one of these centres within six hours to even have a chance of benefitting from it.

The health regulator for England and Wales, NICE, and Scotland’s regulator, SIGN, have yet to issue guidance.

The treatment has also won the backing of Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, a group offering free advice and support to stroke survivors and their families.

Chief executive Mark O’Donnell said the Solitaire stent method was “far more effective than any other treatment available”.

He said: “This benefit is over and above that from clot busting alone and can sometimes be used even when patients cannot safely be given clot busting drugs.

“It is likely that 300 to 500 patients could potentially benefit from clot retrieval in Scotland each year. “If this could be delivered, then over 100 people would avoid serious disability and many others would achieve improved outcomes from their stroke.”

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