At age 79, Bill Thompson, of Lexington, Kentucky, was always busy, with more projects in a day than time to get them done.
But that all changed the morning he collapsed with a massive stroke.
“There was no warning whatsoever,” Thompson said.
Donna Thompson, Bill’s wife of 47 years, was home when Bill collapsed. They had just finished their morning coffee. She heard the thud in the bathroom and found him lying on the floor.
“I knew immediately it was a stroke,” Donna said. “Because his voice was slurred, he could not respond to me and he couldn’t move.”
Paramedics arrived within minutes and raced Bill to the hospital, where scans found a blood clot in his brain. Bill received IV-tPA, but the clot was too big to be dissolved quickly by the drugs. But neurosurgeon Dr. Curtis Given at Baptist Health in Lexington felt the clot could be removed surgically, using a Medtronic device called Solitaire™ 2.
The procedure is known as a stent retrieval. Surgeons inserted Solitaire 2 into an artery in Bill’s leg, guided it into his brain, latched onto the blood clot and pulled it out. Learn more about American Heart Association/American Stroke Association guidelines for stent retrieval usage.
Bill went from being in and out of consciousness and slurring his words, to talking normally and moving again in a matter of minutes.
“Oh it’s something,” Thompson said. “I don’t see how they could go up through that artery and get all the way up to the brain, past the heart and take that clot out.”
Dr. Given credits stent retrieval technology with increasing the number of stroke recoveries like Thompson’s.
“Prior to stent retrievers, it was typical that we would have a story such as Bill’s once or twice a year. And now we have those kinds of stories once or twice a month,” Given said.
In a few weeks, Bill was back at his daily chores, but there was still a mystery to solve.
Doctors needed to know what caused Bill’s stroke. His was classified as “cryptogenic,” meaning there was no known cause.
Heart arrhythmias are often the culprit, but many times they’re intermittent, with months between episodes and usually are undetected by traditional monitoring methods.
Without a firm diagnosis and proper treatment, Bill would be up to five times more at risk for a second stroke.
So cardiologists at Baptist Health turned to a miniaturized heart monitor called Reveal LINQ™. One third the size of a triple A battery and implanted under the skin, it watches for problems, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for up to three years, compared to just a few days or weeks using traditional technology.
”I think this is a major step forward,” said Dr. Gary Boliek, cardiologist at Baptist Health. Many patients that have atrial arrhythmias, atrial afibrillation in particular, atrial flutter as well, won’t be recognized unless this loop recorder is inserted.”
Dr. Boliek said traditional heart monitors can only be worn for a few hours or days and are often uncomfortable for patients. More importantly, they may not detect heart arrhythmias, which often occur only every few weeks or months.
In Bill Thompson’s case, it took eight months, but Reveal LINQ finally detected atrial fibrillation. It alerted Bill’s family and his doctors.
“If we had not implanted the continuous monitor, we likely would not have detected his atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Given.
Armed with a confirmed diagnosis, doctors prescribed blood thinners to help protect Bill from a second stroke, which are often more serious than the first.
Bill’s diagnosis is not unusual. A Medtronic-sponsored study known as Crystal AF found that long term insertable monitors were seven times more likely than conventional standard of care to find atrial fibrillation.
His wife Donna credits technology and skilled doctors with helping return Bill to a normal life. She also knows the importance of fast action in stroke cases. “I want people to know, whether you know it’s a stroke or not, to get help fast,” she said. “Because getting to the hospital, getting the medication and getting the type of surgery that’s now available, has to be done quickly, within so many hours,” she said. Learn how to spot the signs of stroke.
Since his stroke, Bill has celebrated not only his 80th birthday, but also the birthdays of his wife Donna, their five children and eight grandchildren. Fifteen in all. He and Donna are planning a warm-weather vacation.
And he still has plenty of projects. But after one Medtronic innovation helped save him – and with another helping provide him answers, there may be time to get them all done after all.
“I feel great. I feel like I always did,” he said.
Read the Medtronic Perspective on Transforming Healthcare:
Transforming Medtronic to Support Progress in Healthcare (PDF)
Solitaire™2 Revascularization Device
The Solitaire™ 2 revascularization device is intended to restore blood flow by removing thrombus from a large intracranial vessel in patients experiencing ischemic stroke within 8 hours of symptom onset. Patients who are ineligible for intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV t-PA) or who fail IV t-PA therapy are candidates for treatment.
Possible complications from the use of this device include, but are not limited to:
Reveal LINQ™ Insertable Cardiac Monitor
Possible risks associated with the implant of the Reveal LINQ insertable cardiac monitor include, but are not limited to:
Treatment with a Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor is prescribed by your physician. This treatment is not for everyone. Please talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you. Your physician should discuss all potential benefits and risks with you. Although many patients benefit from the use of this treatment, results may vary. For further information, please call the Medtronic toll-free number at 1-800-551-5544 (7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, Central Time) or see the Medtronic website at www.medtronic.com.