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How new stroke procedure at NGMC could improve outcomes, keep care closer to home
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Northeast Georgia Health System's Dr. Sung Lee leads the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's new stroke lab using state of the art medical equipment. - photo by Scott Rogers

Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville is now offering new stroke procedures that will help patients stay closer to home for treatments, which could help with outcomes and recovery.

While NGMC could previously treat stroke patients with clot-busting drugs, patients who needed more critical procedures needed to be transferred to hospitals in the Atlanta area. Now, NGMC can perform mechanical thrombectomies, a procedure that uses small catheters and wires to remove blood clots from the brain. Dr. Sung Lee has joined the hospital as its medical director of neurointerventional surgery and is working in the hospital’s new neurointerventional lab, as well as at a Northeast Georgia Physicians Group practice.

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“We are very grateful for our colleagues in Atlanta and the tremendous work they have done and the services they have provided. The challenging thing, however, was the fact that there was a delay in receiving that care, just because of the sheer distance and having to transfer people,” Lee said. 

Treating stroke patients quickly is crucial, Lee said. 

“Every minute, millions of brain cells are dying, and so you can imagine that just because of the delay in time to transfer to these facilities that there would be increased mortality,” Lee said.

The longer a stroke goes untreated, Lee said, the more likely a person is to lose brain function or become disabled due to the stroke.

“Imagine a tree trunk, and you block the base of the tree trunk, that could cause the entire tree to die,” Lee said.

On the first day the lab was in use, a patient arrived from Towns County with a blockage in the left side of her brain, Lee said. The medical team was able to pull the clot out.

“As soon as we pulled the clot out, she started speaking. … A couple hours later in the ICU where she was being monitored, she was back to normal,” Lee said. 

In many cases, people can be left with lifelong disabilities and require nursing home care, he said. Her case was “a wonderful way to start the program,” Lee said.

NGMC recommends people follow the acronym BE FAST if they suspect they or a loved one is having a stroke:

  • Balance difficulties
  • Eyesight changes
  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech slurring
  • Time to call 911

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Northeast Georgia Health System's Dr. Sung Lee leads the Northeast Georgia Medical Center's new stroke lab using state of the art medical equipment. - photo by Scott Rogers
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