JCMC touts new procedure saving stroke and aneurysm victims


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. according the the CDC, but at Johnson City Medical Center, doctors are using a new procedure to turn those numbers around. Since it's been available, it's been used over 150 times for strokes and ruptured brain aneurysms.

Kimberley Coates suffered a ruptured aneurysm at home last March. She said she knew something was wrong.

"The worst headache of my life, it just happened - boom!" Coates said. "They call it a thunderclap headache."

A CAT-scan revealed the severity of the ruptured blood vessel and Johnson City Medical Center surgeon Brian Mason was quick to respond. He said she is one of the lucky ones.

"Usually of 100 people who have ruptured aneurysms, 40 of them die on the spot. Out of 60 who go to the hospital, statistically 30 die in the hospital, and out of the 30 that are alive about 20 have massive stroke deficits," Dr. Mason said. "Only five or six do okay statistically."

Coates was one of the first patients to receive a new procedure since it became available here last year. Doctors explain a catheter enters the body through an incision in the groin. From their it's fed up towards the brain aneurysm where platinum coils are used to patch the blood vessel.

"He talked about putting platinum coils in your brain," Coates said. "I have one."

Dr. Sam Massey is the other surgeon here who performs the procedure. The technology allows them to save some victims who survive the first few hours after a stroke. Doctors suction out the blood clots that can get up to 5-inches long or more.

"We're really going after the big clots when we talk about thrombectomy," Dr. Massey said. We're going after really large clots that block all the blood flow to the brain."

He said it's changing the prognosis for patients. The success rate for the procedure worldwide is about 85-percent, according to Dr. Massey, and at the JCMC it's even higher at 95-percent.

"Typically we've just kind of had to suffer the consequences of that. You have a stroke and we're just trying to do the best we can for patients," Dr. Massey said. Now we can get in and do something about it."

It gives those like a Coates a fresh beginning.

"I feel very fortunate, and happy, and blessed that I survived that," Coates said.

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