Strokes are a serious, silent and oftentimes completely unanticipated killer.
According to the American Heart Association, strokes are the second leading cause of death in the world and cause more than 133,000 American deaths each year.
But, there is some good news. Technological advances continue to lower the fatality rate, and last Wednesday, new guidelines quadrupled the length of time that stroke patients could have a life-saving surgery.
"In the stroke world," said St. David's Stroke Medical Director, Dr. Angel Pulido,"it's a big deal."
As the head of St. David's stroke program in Austin, Pulido is a pro at looking for and treating strokes.
He explained that before the new guidelines, there were two options for stroke patients.
"We had about a four-and-a-half-hour window where we had the option to give an IV medication," he said. "It would try and reverse the effects of the stroke."
The second option, which was recently expanded, allotted a six-hour window for patients with really large clots to have a surgical procedure to remove the clot.
Doctors like Pulido use specified scanners and tools to run a catheter into the patient's brain. The catheter is then used to break up and pull out the clot allowing blood to flow back into the blocked parts of the brain.
"We didn't have very much of an opportunity to do things before," Dr. Pulido said. "People would be left with very severe language problems or weakness on one side and a lot of times these symptoms were debilitating where they weren't going to be able to get back to normal."
Now, Pulido said, there's more hope for those who wind up with a stroke.
"It's not gonna be every stroke," Pulido said. "But it at least gives us an option for folks where, in the past, we would have said there's not much we can do."
More information on the St. David's Stroke Center can be found here.