Physicians at Banner Boswell Medical Center have a new tool to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients.
Brain perfusion imaging provides doctors with a detailed study of the brain’s blood flow to help them identify patients that could benefit from a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).
“TPA helps to reestablish blood flow to a blocked artery and can lessen the devastating effects of stroke,” said Dr. Scott Agran, neuroradiologist at Banner Boswell. “But the biggest risk of administering tPA is bleeding, which happens in about seven percent of patients, and can be higher in patients older than age 85. Brain perfusion imaging is a more sensitive study that can improve the risk/benefit analysis to determine whether or not to give tPA to a patient.”
Several Banner Health hospitals, including Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, use brain perfusion imaging for suspected stroke patients. To determine whether brain perfusion imaging will be used, patients undergo a series of rapid CT scans to check for bleeding or a mass in the brain, or a blockage or narrowing in the carotid artery (all of which can disqualify a patient). Once the initial scans are complete, a neurologist and radiologist use specific criteria based on national standards to decide whether to proceed with the new imaging study.
During brain perfusion imaging, patients are given an intravenous injection of contrast and undergo a more detailed CT scan of their brain. Using specialized software, doctors can see which areas of the brain have been damaged by stroke. “Good” tissue shows up in green; dead or damaged tissue appears in red. The study also reveals information about blood flow, volume and transit time, all key factors in determining the best course of treatment following stroke, which may include tPA or other interventions to break down or remove a blood clot.
Doctors stress the need for people to learn the warning signs of stroke – which can include a sudden severe headache, numbness/weakness on one side or slurring of speech – and seek immediate medical attention if stroke is suspected. It’s also important to minimize risk factors that can lead to stroke.
“Although some stroke risk factors are beyond your control, there are things you can do to lower your risk,” said Dr. Darry Johnson, neurologist and medical director of Banner Boswell’s stroke program. “Anything you can do to prevent vascular disease, such as not smoking, maintaining a low-fat diet, exercising regularly and controlling your blood pressure and glucose, can be priceless.”
This year, Banner Boswell became the first nationally certified stroke center in the West Valley. To learn about Banner Boswell’s Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers, visit www.BannerHealth.com/Boswell.