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Record number of people receive pioneering stroke treatment at UHNM

Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) in 2023.


The figure for mechanical stroke thrombectomy is the highest ever and four times the number of patients treated when the service launched at the Royal Stoke University Hospital in 2009.


Royal Stoke is one of only two sites in the UK to have a dedicated 24/7 mechanical stroke thrombectomy team.


The increase has been made possible thanks to more efficient teamwork, but also advancements in technology including artificial intelligence (AI).


Dr Sanjeev Nayak, Consultant Interventional Neuroradiologist at UHNM, said: “We were the first hospital in the UK to provide a 24/7 mechanical thrombectomy service and UHNM has been at the forefront of pioneering the procedure nationally ever since.


“When we first started the service, we had to select patients on a case by case basis but over time we’ve seen outstanding outcomes for patients increase thanks to positive results of new technology including imaging and improved ways of working. Advancements in imaging has meant an increase of referrals to our service from surrounding hospital trusts.”


UHNM started using AI in stroke treatment on a regular basis in 2018.


Dr Nayak said: “The use of AI enables us to see how much of the brain has been impacted by a stroke based on scan results. We can quickly see where any blockage is as well as what the vessels look like.


“But whilst AI has helped speed up the process, the real success is down to our massive team of stroke physicians, radiographers, anaesthetists, physiotherapists, and nurses to name but a few, I am proud of all their efforts, enthusiasm and commitment.


“The team also run training courses to stroke teams in surrounding trusts on better identifying vessel blockages so they can pick up cases earlier and refer them to us.”


The procedure involves carefully removing blood clots from deep within the brain using a 3ft-long wire inserted into the groin or wrist. A stent at the end of the wire envelopes the clot and pulls it out, allowing blood to flow freely to the brain.


Pioneering techniques at UHNM has also allowed the team to now carry out procedures on smaller, distal vessels.


Dr Nayak added: “With the advances we have, a stroke is not something that is necessarily leading to a disability - every brain is different. Stroke patients can still lead a normal life if the signs are spotted quickly and acted upon.”


Peter Hooper from North Wales was one of the patients who had a mechanical thrombectomy carried out upon him during 2023.


The 60-year-old suffered a major stroke at home when he was about to walk his two dogs. He said: “Early one Sunday morning I was letting the dogs out for a walk and as I opened the door to the back garden, I felt incredibly dizzy and fell out of the door onto the back lawn and spent a period of time trying to get up.


“I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t use one side of my body. I tried calling for help but I was struggling to speak or make any sense. The dogs started barking and woke my wife up who came down and as soon she saw me, she knew immediately that I’d had a major stroke. We rang for an ambulance and thanks to my wife being aware of the Stroke Centre it was agreed I would be taken to Royal Stoke. I think the dogs barking and my wife knowing where best to go my life was saved.


“I was in theatre within two or three hours of my stroke and was discharged back home the next day. I walked off the ward and first thing Tuesday morning I was opening the back door again to let the dogs out, its quite remarkable.


“The care at UHNM was fantastic from the consultants down to the cleaning staff. I was lucky I got taken to the right place. I don’t remember much about the Sunday but the Monday, the day after my stroke, there were physios, nurses and consultants in and out of my room- they had me walking up and down the stairs by late Monday morning. I owe the team at UHNM a lot. If I couldn’t have the thrombectomy in the window I managed to get it, I probably would be bed-bound and severely disabled and I’m back to doing most of the things I was before.  


“I stayed in touch with Dr Indira Natarajan, my consultant stroke physician, as we are both keen runners. One of my fondest memories of him checking my memory on the Stroke Unit was him asking me to recall the Potters Harf Marathon route as we have both completed the race.


“I got back to running fairly quickly after the stroke and I ran a race in the Peak District back in the autumn with Dr Natarajan.  He was a long way ahead of me but I finished and we have this lovely photo of the two of us on the finish line which I treasure.”


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