Sometimes called a “brain attack”, a stroke is either the obstruction or the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. First cause of acquired disability in adults, it is also one of the main causes of mortality in the world.
In France, there is one every four minutes: nearly 140,000 people are victims each year and around 30,000 die.
“I didn’t realize much when it happened,” recalls Christine Volck, 70. But “my husband saw that I had the left side of my face deformed: he immediately called the Samu”.
Transported by helicopter from the Ile d’Oléron, where she resides, to La Rochelle, she was directed to Poitiers in a neuro-vascular unit, specializing in the management of strokes.
There, she underwent treatment to remove the blood clot that was blocking her artery.
“It took me a long time to get over it, for months it was painful for me to peel a vegetable or even do my hair. Over the months, it got better,” she says.
– Two million neurons –
On the occasion of World Stroke Day on Saturday, the French Neurovascular Society (SFNV) wishes to “recall the need to act quickly at the first signs of the disease by calling 15 without delay”: “every minute account”.
Only 32% of stroke victims today arrive at the hospital within four hours of the first symptoms.
“Each minute saved means two million neurons saved and weeks less rehabilitation for the patient”, specifies Professor Igor Sibon, president of the SFNV and head of the neurology department at the Bordeaux University Hospital.
Knowing how to recognize the first symptoms is therefore crucial: weakness on one side of the body, numbness in the face or in the limbs, or even difficulty in speaking should alert.
Today, with emergency care and medical progress, 40% of people with a stroke are completely cured and only 10% have very serious after-effects.
“The techniques have evolved considerably”, welcomes Isabelle Florentin, 58, president of the France AVC association, who remained hemiplegic after her accident which occurred 22 years ago.
– Capturing clots –
In recent years, the development of mechanical thrombectomy, which consists of going directly to the brain to find the blood clot that blocks an artery, has revolutionized treatment.
An effective technique in a large number of strokes: more than 80% are indeed of ischemic origin, that is to say caused by a clot blocking an artery in the brain; the others are due to cerebral hemorrhage.
Thanks to a national action plan (2010-2014), nearly 140 neurovascular units have also been deployed in the territory. Once the “15” is dialed, the patients who need it are referred to these structures.
“We can do better because not all territories have it”, underlines Catherine Mallecourt, neurologist at the Toulon University Hospital.
Research is also underway to improve care. A “Booster” consortium, coordinated by the hospitals of Paris (AP-HP) and bringing together several medical teams, aims to provide better care within five years.
In particular, the project wants to develop more efficient equipment to capture clots that are difficult to remove. “Today, we manage to remove the clot in one piece in only 50% of cases”, notes Raphaël Blanc, radiologist at the Rothschild Foundation, a stakeholder in the project.
Another objective: to establish an earlier diagnosis. “By taking a drop of blood from the Samu truck, we hope soon to define what type of stroke a patient has suffered, so as to start the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible,” he adds.