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Oxford stroke centre is among first to hit NHS target for key treatment

The stroke unit at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) is among the first in the country to hit an NHS target for a life-changing treatment.

Mechanical thrombectomy (MT) can reduce disability and prevent or limit long-term care needs following a stroke. One of the priorities outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan in 2019 was to increase the proportion of eligible patients receiving MT from 1% to 10%.

Latest figures show MT rates for patients admitted directly to OUH topped the target for the first time in 2022, hitting 12% – up from 2% in 2019. There was a six-fold increase in the number of thrombectomies carried out in this period from 14 in 2019 to 87 in 2022.

The Oxford stroke unit is at the centre of a regional integrated stroke delivery unit and the wider Thrombectomy Innovation and Transformation Network (TITaN) connecting hospitals in Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Reading, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Swindon which the Oxford AHSN helped to establish in 2020. From 2019-2022 there was a five-fold increase in the number of thrombectomies carried out across the region as a whole – from 37 in 2019 to 186 in 2022.

Dr Phil Mathieson, clinical lead for stroke at OUH, said: “We are delighted to be among the first stroke hubs to meet the national thrombectomy target. This means many more patients are being given the best chance of recovery following stroke.”

Dr David Hargroves, Co-Chair of the National Thrombectomy Implementation group, National Speciality Adviser for Stroke and Mechanical Thrombectomy lead for NHS England, said: “The fantastic work of the TITaN network, and particularly the stroke and interventional neuroradiology team at Oxford, demonstrates the power of a networked approach to complex medical interventions.

“The whole multidisciplinary team across the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Stroke Delivery Network should be congratulated for their phenomenal effort in delivering mechanical thrombectomy which is reducing the burden of disability for so many people.”

Identifying patients eligible for MT – removing a blockage in a large blood vessel in the brain – relies on specialist radiological image interpretation. The OUH is one of 24 stroke centres across England taking part in an evaluation led by the Oxford AHSN of e-Stroke, created by Brainomix, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to share high quality brain scans quickly and securely, generating unique outputs that help stroke clinicians make swift decisions relating to treatment and transfer.

Previously, CT brain scans had to be reviewed by a specialist at a computer in a stroke unit. Now they can be seen within a few minutes of being processed via web interface or mobile phone app and advice given immediately. Earlier identification and speedier decision times increase the window of opportunity for MT. Reducing the time between the patient arriving in hospital and being referred for treatment is crucial in securing full recovery after a stroke.