Reducing risk of stroke with new technology: TCAR

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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - Nearly 800,00 people suffer strokes each year in the United States, and one in four will go on to have a second stroke.

While it is something many worry about, that wasn't the case for a Granger man who is Michiana's version of Forrest Gump, circling the globe nearly four times with his daily running routine.

In October, life changed, and he credits a new procedure offered only at St. Joseph Health System for giving him his life back, and quickly.

We first introduced you to retired Marine Col. Brian Regan in 1996. The disciplined leatherneck has been getting up each morning to work out with barbells, do situps, pushups and finally a 6-mile run in 48 minutes.

Fast forward 22 years, and while his routine now includes a treadmill, he still logs the miles he puts in daily from the very beginning, saying, "I've run 100,599 miles since April of 1960."

Asked if he's still running, he responds:

"Yeah, I'm on a treadmill now, but i still do 2 miles on a treadmill. I don't want to go outside any more. I am afraid of falling."

Otherwise the picture of health, this 79-year-old was shocked to find out he suffered a stroke.

"I had no idea it was coming," he said. "It was Oct. 1."

He and his wife, Kathy, were out to dinner when he started sneezing violently, which he said might have released the plaque in his carotid arteries, which run though the neck.

Brian went home, watched football, drove his wife to the airport and went to sleep. He credits his daughter, Colleen, with saving his life.

"She woke me up," he said. "If she had not been there, I would have said, 'I'm fine.' I would have gutted it out, and I might have died."

He was rushed to St. Joseph Health System in Mishawaka.

"They gave me a routine test," Regan recalled. "They gave me an MRI and said, 'You had a stroke.' I was the most surprised person in the world."

Kathy had just landed in Asheville, North Carolina, when she got the news and rushed home.

Brian's carotid artery was 70 percent blocked.

For years, surgeons have been performing a carotid endarterectomy. Basically, a surgeon makes an incision along the front of the neck, opens your artery and removes plaque that is clogging the artery.

Instead, Dr. Ziad Fayad proposed a newer, state-of-the-art procedure he's been performing since early 2018.

It's called TransCarotid Revascularization, or TCAR, and Fayad believes the minimally invasive procedure would be best to prevent a future stroke from occurring. At 79, Brian was considered high-risk for the more invasive procedure.

"One is the risk of stroke is much less, like almost 50 percent less," Fayad explained. "The study for the TCAR that was done, mainly in high risk patients, was 1.4 percent. The second, most important thing is the risk of nerve injury. With the TCAR, we have 0 percent."

They don't dissect the area where the nerves are with TCAR, meaning no nerve damage.

"The way it works is we make a small incision at the base of the neck, we expose the carotid artery, and then, after we do that, we go into the groin, we place sheath and then another sheath is placed in the carotid artery," Fayad explained.

Then, a device that causes blood flow reversal, temporarily directing the blood flow away from the brain, filters the dislodged debris, preventing it from reaching the brain and causing another stroke.

"In the future it will be the standard of care," Fayad said.

And you do not need to convince this tough Marine that TCAR is a game-changer. He went home the day after surgery.

"Three weeks later, I am doing pushups, situps and I'm back on the treadmill," Regan said. "I'm back to normal, and there's nothing that I can't do."

So, he's continuing to add to his mileage, and perhaps circle the globe one more time.

TCAR is a minimally invasive procedure that in high-risk patients can greatly reduce the risk of another stroke. Fayad points out it is not a procedure used on stroke patients who are incapacitated.

If you'd like more information, talk to your doctor or go to sjmed.com. TCAR is only offered locally at St. Joseph Health System. Patients can also seek such treatment in Chicago, Indianapolis or Kalamazoo.