In early 2012, Rich Hasselberger, 47, was rushed to the hospital after collapsing at his son’s lacrosse game.
“I was on the sidelines at Erik's lacrosse game, and all of a sudden words weren't making sense,” Hasselberger said. “I remember like five minutes before I passed out. I went blank. It was that quick...”
At the North Shore University Stroke Center in Manhassett, N.Y., doctors diagnosed Hasselberger, a father of three, with a spontaneous carotid dissection and ischemic stroke. According to Dr. Jeffrey Katz, chief of vascular neurology and director of the Stroke Center at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH), a stroke causes the blood vessel in the brain to become blocked.
“That area of the brain that isn't getting blood flow dies, and so [stroke victims] get symptoms depending on the area of the brain that is being affected - not being able to understand what someone is telling them, they can get weak on one side, double vision…” Katz said.
Luckily for Hasselberger, Katz used a new device to treat him that helped to open up his blood vessels and restore blood flow to his brain. The device – called the ‘Solitaire Flow Restoration Device’ – is a self-expanding, cylindrical metal cage that is inserted through a small tube into the blood clot itself.
“You leave the stent retriever up for five minutes allowing the clot to grow into the stent, and then you pull it out,” Katz said. “In those five minutes, there is blood flow going to the brain tissue that wasn't before.”
“Previously we could only open about 50 percent of blood vessels,” Katz added. “In this trial they were opening about 90 percent plus, which is great.”
In Hasselberger’s case, Katz was able to completely remove the blood clot – something he says is a major game changer.
“I think before we had this type of device, it was like trying to drive a nail into a board without a hammer,” Katz said. “And now we finally have a hammer, and I think it's really exciting.”