An emergency treatment for stroke patients used at St George’s Hospital is being rolled out to other centres across the UK, benefiting an estimated 8,000 patients.

NHS England has today announced that it will commission mechanical thrombectomy so it can become more widely available for patients who have certain types of  acute ischaemic stroke.

Acute stroke is a severe form of the condition where a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked, often leading to long-term disability. A mechanical thrombectomy is a surgical procedure which involves surgically removing blood clots blocking blood flow to the brain.

The procedure has been shown in clinical trials to significantly improve survival and quality of life by restoring blood flow and therefore limiting brain damage.

Last year, St George’s became the first hospital in the UK to have a fully staffed 24/7 thrombectomy service for acute stroke.

The Hyper Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) at St George’s treats over 1200 stroke patients each year. The thrombectomy procedure itself is carried out by interventional neuro-radiologists, with the patient’s before and after care provided by the stroke team.

Commenting on the announcement today by NHS England, Dr Jeremy Madigan, Consultant Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiologist at St George’s, said:

“This is great news for patients. At St George’s, our patients are benefiting from the thrombectomy service we provide – with an 80-90% chance of opening up blocked vessels via this technique, compared to 30% with traditional clot-busting drugs. Patients with acute stroke require a range of different interventions, but providing a thrombectomy service – including at all times of the day, as we do at St George’s – radically improves the range and mix of interventions available to us as clinicians.”

Margaret Kirkland, 50, underwent a thrombectomy procedure at St George’s in March and is now recovering well. Margaret’s daughter noticed her mother’s face had dropped after complaining of a headache. An ambulance was called, and within 45 minutes Margaret was in theatre at St George’s, where she underwent a thrombectomy procedure. She is now at home and recovering well.

Margaret said: “I’m so lucky to have been able to have this procedure. It saved my life and my independence, and I left hospital only four days later.”

Work by NHS England is now underway to assess the readiness of each of the 24 neuroscience centres across the country which are set to introduce the service. It is expected the treatment will start to be phased in later in this year with an estimated 1,000 patients set to benefit across the first year of introduction.

NHS England will work with Health Education England and trusts to build on the expertise that is currently available in these specialised centres, developing the workforce and systems to enable an estimated 8,000 to receive this treatment in coming years.

This is all part of NHS England’s plans to introduce world leading and innovative healthcare as set out in Next Steps for the NHS Five Year Forward View.