Emerging technology helps save woman's life after suffering stroke

SAN FRANCISCO -- An emerging technology is offering new hope to stroke victims, which could allow doctors to prevent permanent damage even hours after the symptoms first appear.

As a 20-year-old student at Sonoma State, Nora Kasapligil has her whole life ahead of her, thanks in part to her quick thinking roommate Christine.

After waking up one morning, Christine noticed something was wrong with Kasapligil's speech and movements. "I think I tried saying, 'I have to go to work,' and instead of it coming out like that, I said: "I have to go, go go, go to work,'" Kasapligil said.

Joey English, M.D., says scans quickly revealed the cause, a clot, blocking the blood supply to the right side of he brain.

Since it appeared in her sleep, doctors couldn't be sure she was still within the four hour window where clot dissolving blood thinners can be used. "After four and a half hours, the data tell us the risk of bleeding in the brain is greater than providing any benefit of opening the vessel," English said.

Instead, Kasapligil was rushed into a procedure room at Sutter Health's Davies campus in San Francisco where doctors would turn to a cutting edge technology.

After confirming the effected brain tissue was still surviving, doctors inserted a catheter in Kasapligil's leg. "And we can navigate a tiny catheter all the way up into the blood vessels of the brain and into the blockage," English said.

Once they reached the brain, English and his team deployed a device called a stent retriever.

There are two versions made by competing companies now approved for use in the U.S.

An animation from Stryker showed how their device expands into the clot, allowing doctors to pull it out through the blood vessel, restoring the blood supply.

In Kasapligil's case, the outcome was dramatic. "There's a picture of me in the hospital bed, and I'm going like this," she said.

"And about an hour after the procedure, her symptoms had largely resolved," English said.

English and his team are now participating in a clinical trial to learn how many hours after a stroke the catheter procedure might still work.

As for Kasapligil, she's looking forward to graduation, and a second chance at life. "Travel, adventure, live life to the fullest," she said.

English has done paid consulting work for both Stryker and Medtronic, the two companies that make versions of the stent retriever. He has no financial interest in either company.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.