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New service at Townsville University Hospital saves stroke patient’s life

Published:  30 March 2022

A new service at Townsville University Hospital (TUH), preventing hundreds of North Queensland patients from travelling to Brisbane for critical, life-saving treatment for aneurysm and stroke, has already saved the life of a Mount Isa man.

Andrew Booth, 57, was undergoing a routine procedure at TUH last week when he suffered a stroke.

Staff immediately contacted the neurology team who quickly called in TUH’s newest specialist doctor interventional neuroradiologist Dr Muhammad Usman Manzoor and the interventional neuroradiology (INR) team.

A CT scan of the brain showed a clot in Mr Booth’s basilar artery, one of the arteries which supply blood to the brain stem.

Within 30 minutes of the scan, Dr Manzoor had threaded a catheter through the artery in Mr Booth’s groin into his brain to remove the clot.

“As soon as we found the blockage, we knew Mr Booth was a good candidate for a stroke thrombectomy (clot retrieval),” Dr Manzoor said.

“Once the clot was removed, he was much more alert, able to lift his left arm where he previously had zero power, and his speech became much more coherent.

“From the onset of the first symptom to recovery was less than an hour.”

Dr Manzoor said patients with basilar artery occlusions (blockages) could go downhill very quickly.

“I’m glad we could intervene and open up the artery in a timely manner to save the patient’s life and prevent permanent disability,” he said.

“The prompt response was only possible thanks to the collaboration from the medical teams, nurses and technologists involved.”

Mr Booth said he was so grateful to Dr Manzoor and the INR team.

“I was lying there having my procedure and the next minute they were wheeling me around to a different room,” he said.

“I couldn’t feel my left side and my speech was slurred.

“It was terrifying especially when they were asking me to lift my left arm, and nothing was happening.

“As soon as Dr Manzoor was done, everything was back to normal, and the doctors were amazed.”

The new INR service at TUH is the first of its kind outside the south-east corner, offering non-surgical treatment for brain aneurysm (a bulge in the artery of the brain) and clots in the brain caused by stroke.

Director of neurology Dr Richard White, who was called in when Mr Booth started to show signs of stroke, said the new INR service had changed the game completely for North Queensland stroke patients.

“Medical intervention following stroke is time critical,” he said.

“Stroke is caused by a blood clot to the brain and if you want to salvage brain tissue, which is dying every second the blood flow is obstructed, you need to remove the clot.

“If you wait too long, you reach a point where the brain cannot be salvaged. “Previously, if a patient arrived at our hospital with an acute stroke and we couldn’t thrombolyse (dissolve) the clot, they were transferred to Brisbane or the Gold Coast for a thrombectomy.”

Dr White said Mr Booth was living proof of the value of the INR service.

“We are all absolutely thrilled with the result we achieved for Mr Booth,” he said.

Senior neurosurgeon Dr Eric Guazzo said the commencement of the INR service was pioneering and was one of the most significant new services at TUH in the past 10 years.
“The INR service is able to treat brain aneurysms without surgery on the brain,” he said.

“Dr Manzoor treated our first aneurysm patient last week by endovascular coiling of the aneurysm, which cut off the blood flow to the aneurysm, preventing a potentially fatal rupture.

“The procedure was performed via a small hole in the artery of the patient’s leg instead of open brain surgery.”

The patient, Cardwell resident James Rowley, 60, was diagnosed with two aneurysms following persistent headaches and said he was thrilled to have been able to receive the treatment in Townsville.

“I was looking at a 17-hour drive or train ride to get to Brisbane for treatment, so to be able to drive the two hours to Townsville instead was a huge relief,” Mr Rowley said.

Mr Rowley said he was feeling much better and was eager to get his second aneurysm coiled in a few weeks.

“I’m feeling a bit sore here and there, but it’s just the scar tissue healing and I feel 100 per cent better than I did,” he said.

Dr Guazzo said he was delighted that his patient could be treated as part of the INR service.

“If you go back 20 years ago, the majority of brain aneurysms required a major operation on the brain, but now 95 per cent are treated by INR,” he said.

“It’s wonderful news that this standard of care is available locally for the people of North Queensland at TUH.”

Dr Manzoor, born and educated in Pakistan, and further trained in the United States, arrived in Townsville from Saudi Arabia this month to start the INR service which will benefit more than 200 North Queenslanders each year.

Dr Manzoor said establishing a new INR service was one of the main motivators for making the move to Australia and joining the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.

“I want to acknowledge the efforts of all who were involved in establishing this critical service at TUH which will benefit the people of North Queensland,” he said.

In the coming months, Dr Manzoor will be joined by other expert INR specialists, who with the existing INR team, will expand the service to its full capacity.

Director of radiology Dr Shiromi Prematunga said she was excited to welcome the INR service to TUH.

"Dr Manzoor is a brilliant addition to our team, and we are looking forward to working closely with him to treat our patients with vascular problems of the brain, head and neck, and spine, close to home and to the highest standard of care,” she said.

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