An advanced unit at Doctors Medical Center of Modesto has brought lifesaving treatment closer to stroke victims in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Doctors invested several million dollars in an Interventional Radiology Bi-Plane Suite, which offers a minimally invasive way of finding stroke-causing blood clots and aneurysms in the brain and then treating them.
The Bi-Plane technology provides a 3-D image of a blood clot that threatens disabling injuries to a patient. Once the clot is located, a doctor inserts a catheter in the patient’s groin and guides it to the brain to remove the blood clot.
Dr. James Jaffe, a specialist in neurointerventional surgery, demonstrated the system at the Florida Avenue hospital Thursday. He pointed to an aneurysm, or bubble on a blood vessel, projected on a large screen. Without treatment, the aneurysm could burst and cause paralysis, loss of speech or death.
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Jaffe said he uses tiny coils to stop blood flow to an aneurysm and eliminate the problem.
The procedure done with a catheter is far less invasive than the older method, which involves removing a section of the patient’s skull and then a search through the gray matter for the aneurysm.
Jaffe said the Bi-Plane technology provides front, back and side views of the aneurysm and blood vessels, so “you know exactly where you are going.” The system also is used in treating bleeding strokes and pulling out a blood clot that has caused a stroke.
The Modesto hospital often has sent stroke patients to University of California San Francisco Medical Center or Stanford for surgery or interventions.
For every 30 minutes that treatment is delayed, there is a 10 percent less chance of a good recovery from a stroke, Jaffe said. A Modesto patient is most likely 3 1/2 hours from stroke treatment at a Bay Area hospital, and that reduces the odds of good recovery by 60 percent, Jaffe said.
People have a 50-50 chance of surviving a ruptured aneurysm in the brain.
Jaffe has been an interventional radiologist in Washington D.C., and was recruited by Doctors to lead the special unit. He expects to start treating patients here in July.
The risk factors for stroke, such as cigarette smoking, diabetes and obesity, are prevalent in the adult population in Stanislaus County.
Dr. Edward Stanford, chief medical officer of Doctors, said the hospital felt there was a need for this “surgery without the incision” in communities in the Central Valley. Doctors traditionally has served six counties in the Valley and Sierra region but has drawn some patients needing specialty care from a broader region.
The Bi-Plane unit further positions the hospital as a stroke center.
According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms of stroke are confusion, trouble with speech, numbness in the face, arm or leg, vision problems, dizziness or loss of balance and sudden headache.
The options for treating the medical emergency include clot-busting medications, emergency procedures to remove the clot and aspirin to help prevent additional strokes.
In the new Bi-Plane unit at Doctors Medical Center, Jaffe and another doctor will work with one or two nurses and two technicians. Most of the patients will be wheeled down the hall from the emergency department. Local doctors also will refer patients suspected of having an aneurysm.
Jaffe said that oftentimes there are no obvious symptoms of an unruptured aneurysm. He promised that the new technology will give those patients a better of chance of diagnosing the issue and avoiding a life-threatening episode.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16