Not enough Taiwanese doctors are trained to administer catheter-based thrombectomy treatment to stroke patients, medical experts said at an international conference.
The treatment is a life-saving procedure and a major step toward mitigating strokes, they said.
It was discussed at the Acute Stroke Treatment Hands-on Workshop organized by the nation’s major hospitals and the Taiwan Society for Neurovascular and Interventional Surgery.
The workshop took place at Institut de Recherche contre les Cancers de l’Appareil Digestif Taiwan Center in Changhua County’s Lugang Township (鹿港).
Catheter-based thrombectomy is used to treat ischemic stroke patients whose blood clots cannot be removed by intravenously administered thrombolytic agents, Chang Bing Show Chwan Memorial Hospital director of neurology Wei Cheng-yu (魏誠佑) said.
When performed within hours of a stroke, the treatment increases the survival rate and the chance that the patient will recover sufficiently to live independently, Wei said.
The treatment has a success rate of more than 80 percent in removing clots from cerebral blood vessels and greatly reduces the after-effects of stroke, said Chang Wei-chieh (張維傑), a neurosurgeon at Chang Bing Show Chwan Memorial Hospital.
However, medical experts at the workshop said Taiwan has fewer than 50 doctors trained to administer the treatment, while about 200 to 300 such doctors are needed to serve the nation.
Citing Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics, they said strokes killed 11,848 people in the nation last year and are the No. 4 cause of death in the nation.
The number of deaths caused by strokes last year rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier, they said, adding that strokes were the No. 1 cause of disability in adults in the nation.
Blaise Baxter, the president of the US-based Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery, and Johns Hopkins professor of emergency medicine Edbert Hsu were among the physicians who gave demonstrations and presentations at the workshop.
During the workshop, strokes were artificially induced in pigs that were then treated with catheter-based thrombectomy by 24 Taiwanese and Hong Kong doctors who took part in the event.
The nation urgently needs doctors trained to administer the treatment, Taiwan Society for Stroke Research president Yeh Shou-cheng (葉守正) said.
Clot removal via arterial catheters is one of the latest developments in neurosurgery and represents the best hope for preserving the patient’s mobility and mental faculties, Yeh said.
Although the procedure might spare patients from dependency on crutches and caretakers, only a small number of hospitals in the nation are capable of performing it, he said.
“Due to the small number of hospitals capable of performing the procedure and the lack of expertise in the nations, we cannot help many patients with acute stroke who need to be treated at hospitals,” Yeh said.
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