Stroke recovery aided by new technology in Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A hemorrhagic stroke, a blood clot in the brain, can be instantly disabling and lead to a long and often incomplete recovery. A new study finds stroke hospitalizations in this country over the past decade are down 18%, but there is an uptick among those younger than 45. Now, there is a new, less invasive way to remove that blood clot and it’s helping an Austin woman make a much faster recovery.

Gigi Gelvosa never knew what hit her when she was felled by a stroke in February. She says the next thing she remembered was “waking up in ICU and people say give us thumbs up to make sure I’m okay.” But Gigi was in luck, a perfect first candidate for something new in Austin, a less invasive procedure, a tiny tubular retractor that could remove the clot from her brain.

Dr. Mateo Ziu, a neurosurgeon at the Seton Brain and Spine Institute, explains, “Until now we have not been able to treat surgically the blood clots deep in the brain. Because that would have involved damaging the normal brain to go to the deeper areas.”

You recover from the ravages of a stroke by the brain transferring functions from the damaged area to the good. The new retractor means less time in ICU and a quicker rehab. Gigi says, “I got out of ICU sooner, my memory is not as bad, I can speak better and there’s not much deficits other than my hand and leg.”

Not everyone is a candidate for this but the procedure has widespread uses. Dr. Ziu says, “It’s like removing a tumor, we can remove with the same procedure tumors that are in deep areas we couldn’t remove before.”

Gigi, who is a neurosurgery nurse, hopes to get back to work, and sooner rather than later, “My hope is to be able to help other people in Central Texas so I can go back to work and recover quicker.” The damage from a stroke can happen quickly so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs, which include a drooping face, arm weakness and difficulty with speech.

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