Johnson City Medical Center | News Article

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Johnson City Medical Center offering advanced life-saving treatment for stroke, aneurysm

Kimberly Coates, left, suffered a ruptured aneurysm but a new procedure performed by Dr. Brian Mason not only saved her life but allowed her to recover from it.JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – When Kevin Beard suffered a stroke at the age of 42, his life depended on a rapid response. When his wife found him unresponsive in the yard at the couple’s home in Unicoi, she immediately called 911. Beard was rushed to Johnson City Medical Center, where neuroendovascular surgeon Dr. Brian Mason performed a life-saving procedure previously unavailable in the region.

“When they were taking me to the hospital, I thought I was going to die,” said Beard. “I kept thinking, ‘My 10-year-old daughter is going to grow up without her daddy.’ I’m so thankful to the doctors who acted quickly and performed this procedure that saved my life. They took out the blood clot that caused my stroke, and I was out of the hospital four days later. Thanks to them, I’ll be there for my daughter as she grows up.”

Check out this WCYB report on Kimberly Coates (pictured at right with Dr. Brian Mason) and her story.

When someone is having a stroke, the team at Johnson City Medical Center knows that every minute counts. Quick access to surgical stroke treatment can be the difference between suffering death or major physical disabilities, or having a full recovery.

May is American Stroke Month, a time to help increase awareness of stroke, which is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either by a clot or by a ruptured blood vessel, depriving the brain of vital oxygen. The longer the brain is without oxygen, the greater the chance of brain tissue damage or death. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Each year, approximately 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke, and more than 140,000 die.

There are two types of common strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes involve a blood vessel to the brain being blocked by a clot. These account for 85 percent of all strokes. Ischemic strokes can be treated by a clot-busting drug; however, if the drug is not able to fully clear the blockage, the patient may need intervention to prevent further brain damage.

Hemorrhagic stroke is caused when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, often due to high blood pressure or vessel abnormalities such as aneurysms. Hemorrhagic strokes are devastating to brain tissue and can only be treated by prompt surgical attention.

That’s where the doctors at Johnson City Medical Center come in. Dr. Brian Mason and Dr. Samuel “Chip” Massey are the most highly trained physicians with the ability to treat both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke with minimally invasive surgical techniques. The two physicians have more than 35 years of experience and have successfully treated thousands of patients over the course of their careers.

The procedure that saved Beard’s life is called an embolectomy, which uses a small incision in the groin and a tiny catheter that is carefully threaded up into the brain. The clot is removed through the catheter using suction, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow to the brain tissue again.

 “Any time you’re able to restore blood flow to the brain faster, the patient’s outcome improves,” said Mason, who performed the life-saving clot removal procedure on Kevin Beard, whose 6-inch clot had extended from his carotid artery up into his brain. “Our team has had patients like Kevin come in with major strokes, and then after surgery, they walk out of the hospital just days later.”

Mason and Massey are also able to treat hemorrhagic strokes using the same tiny incision and catheter, inserting platinum coils to plug the aneurysm or rupture in a procedure known as coil embolization. They can also use a flow-diverting device across the neck of an aneurysm to protect the vessel from rupture, which is called a pipeline embolization.

“Before these procedures were available, certain stroke patients would have been facing a life of rehab and nursing home care,” said Massey. “These are life-saving, life-changing experiences. Many of these patients are able to walk out of the hospital and go back to their regular life. It’s remarkable.”

American Stroke Month is a good time to remind loved ones about how to spot a possible stroke. The faster you recognize the symptoms, the faster you can begin getting care at a Mountain States hospital. To remember the signs of stroke, think FAST:

   F – Face drooping

   A – Arm weakness

   S – Speech difficulty

   T – Time to call 911

If you suspect you or someone you know is having a having a stroke, call 911 immediately.

You can learn more about Johnson City Medical Center’s stroke center at