New procedure to prevent stroke at Spectrum Health ‘very promising.’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- There's a new life-saving procedure that's helping patients at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

The procedure is called TCAR, for transcarotid artery revascularization, and it works by opening up blocked carotid arteries without the risk of the blockage in those arteries from traveling to the brain.

"This new procedure TCAR now it looks very promising in terms of, especially for people who are at high risk for having surgery, people who are over 75 years old or that have other things concerning for a surgery TCAR is excellent and excellent option for them," Dr. Slaikeu said, who is one of 100 surgeons across the country trained in this new procedure.

Lester Cramer was the first patient at Spectrum Health to undergo the innovative procedure where doctors place a tube in the artery to temporarily direct the flow of blood away from the brain, while the surgeon inserts a stent.

The blood is then filtered to remove debris and is fed back into the body through a vein in the groin.

Cramer had no idea what was going on in his body until four years ago, when he nearly fainted while driving. He later learned he had suffered a mini-stroke and tests showed a dangerous blockage in his left artery, which put him at risk for future strokes.

Dr. Slaikeu says the approach does not replace traditional techniques for opening blocked arteries, but it provides a great alternative for many patients.

Health experts say treating carotid artery disease is crucial to stroke prevention because strokes impact nearly 800,000 Americans every year.

"Time is of the essence when it comes down to a stroke, every minute counts. Every minute that is wasted, a treatment is not delivered is harmful to the brain," said Dr. Muhib Khan, a physician at Spectrum Health. "There are about a hundred, slightly more than a hundred stroke centers in the whole country and we are lucky to have one of the comprehensive stroke centers in Michigan, the West Michigan region. Spectrum Health Comprehensive Stroke Center is the only comprehensive stroke center in the West Michigan area."

People at risk for blocked arteries and possible future strokes are those with diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

The stroke symptoms are well defined by the American Heart Association for the general population with the acronym called F.A.S.T. which is F is for the Face, so any kind asymmetry or facial drooping. A is for an Arm, any kind of arm weakness or arm drift. S is for Speech so any problems in speech, in either understanding speech or speaking or having slurred speech and T is for Time which again to emphasize the urgency of these symptoms and to call 911 right away.

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