By Annette Pinder

Recently, I watched two live stroke procedures performed by endovascular neurosurgeons at Gates Vascular Institute (GVI). Yes live! And those attending experienced just two of the 10-20 life-saving procedures performed daily, and 7,000 performed yearly at GVI. Dr. Ken Snyder, endovascular neurosurgeon narrated the surgeries in real time as Drs. Elad Levy and Jason Davies performed them.

The first patient was a 75-year-old man with carotid artery occlusion, a condition in which one or both of the carotid arteries becomes narrowed or blocked. Fixing, opening, and stenting the man’s carotid artery restored the blood flow to his brain, preventing a stroke which was imminent.

The second procedure involved a 31-year-old woman who sustained a head trauma when she was a cheerleader. She also had a family history of subarachnoid hemorrhage due to aneurysm, which occurs when an artery’s wall weakens, causing an abnormally large bulge that can rupture and cause internal bleeding. Treating her aneurysm with a new device that allows the blood vessel to heal itself from the inside-out, Drs. Levy and Davies scaffolded the blood vessel to allow the vessel to walk along the scaffolding and completely heal itself.

GVI physicians are pleased that new American Heart Association stroke guidelines now recognize that stroke is a surgical disease, rather than one treated with medication alone, and highlight the new techniques being developed at GVI. In fact, the second procedure performed on the young woman, known as the Pipeline procedure named for the Pipeline stent that was used, was first developed at GVI. Also, the manner in which it was performed using a minimally invasive high-definition image-guided intervention, is currently only available here in Buffalo at GVI and in Sweden. Another procedure, only available in our region at GVI, now makes it possible to treat a person within 24 hours following an event ifthe affected area of the brain is still alive.

“We are broadcasting live cases regularly and teaching the world globally. Mostly, we are grateful to the patients who allow us to care for them and willing to serve as examples to educate the community regarding these life-saving procedures,” said Dr. Snyder.

“Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Stroke doesn’t discriminate by age, sex, gender, or race, and can happen to anyone. Stroke is no longer a disease of the elderly. Many people that are young can have strokes from dehydration, trauma or injury to the vessel,” said Dr. Levy.

Dr. Snyder adds, “When a person is experiencing a stroke his or her brain is no longer functioning properly. Often, it is the people around them, including youth, who recognize that something is wrong and get them the help they need.”

“Knowing the symptoms can mean the difference between a full recovery and a lifetime of impairment,” said Dr. Levy, warning that, “If you have weakness on one side of your body, numbness, impaired speech, change in the level of consciousness, or simply don’t feel right in your head, get to Gates because it may be a stroke, and if it is a stroke that’s something we can fix.”