NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of long term disability.
But now, an ingenious new device, the EmboTrap II, can stop a stroke in its tracks.
Think of it as a rake pulling out a blood clot in a patient's brain who's actively having a stroke.
"When a vessel in the head is blocked, the brain is dying fairly rapidly so we are racing the clock to save that brain tissue and restore flow to that brain," said Dr. Daniel Sahlein of Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine at Indiana University Health.
The tiny device was just approved to be used in the U.S., reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.
Here's how it works. A self-expanding stent is connected to a wire. The stent opens up inside the clot, trapping it so the entire clot can be pulled out of the brain.
The 15 to 20 minute process limits the potential for lifelong damage.
"Many of these patients end up walking out of the hospital two day later," said Sahlein. "They come in with the inability to move, inability to speak or understand language. After this kind of treatment, literally walk out of the hospital two days later."
But clot retrieving has to be done within 24 hours of the start of stroke symptoms, much longer than with clot-busting drugs.
Here's what you need to remember. The acronym FAST.
"F" is for face. It's twisted or droops on one side,
"A" is for arm. You can't move or lift an arm.
"S" is for speech. It's garbled or you can't speak at all.
And "T" is for time. Get to a hospital immediately because lost time is lost brain.
"So this is while you're having a stroke," said Sahlein. "One of the really critical points is that patients need to come into the hospital immediately when they experience symptoms."
Clot retrievers like the EmboTrap II gives a stroke victim a shot at a normal life.
"A much greater percentage of patients will live independently at three months when they get this type of treatment versus those who do not," Sahlein said.
Even so, prevention is better than treatment for stroke. Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar and body weight at healthy levels and, of course, don't smoke. All that reduces your risk for a stroke.
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