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New procedure offers safer option for patients with stroke risks

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Dr. Bryan Ehlert, assistant professor in the Division of Vascular Surgery at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine, performs a TCAR procedure at the East Carolina Heart Institute at Vidant Medical Center.


By ECU News Services

Sunday, November 4, 2018

East Carolina University physicians at Vidant Medical Center are providing patients at risk of having a stroke the opportunity to significantly reduce their future stroke risk through a new procedure that is less invasive — and boasts a lower risk of long-term complications — than traditional techniques.

In July, surgeons from the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU performed the first transcarotid arterial revascularization (TCAR) procedures at Vidant Medical Center.

This novel approach to traditional carotid stenting allows surgeons to access and repair the affected carotid arteries through a small incision above the collarbone, instead of having to perform an open repair or the more traditional repair in which the stent is placed in through the groin. This technique allows the surgeons to safely place the stent in the patient’s artery without dislodging anything that can go on to cause a stroke. The patient’s blood also is filtered to prevent the plaque from further embolizing.

“This brings a new technology to the patients of eastern North Carolina which provides a reduced stroke risk, is more minimally invasive, has a lower risk of nerve injury and a lower risk of long-term complications,” said Dr. Bryan Ehlert, assistant professor in the Division of Vascular Surgery at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

Large-scale studies have shown that the stroke risk was as high as 6 percent for patients who underwent the traditional stenting procedure and as high as 4 percent for patients who received open repairs, Ehlert said.

“With this procedure, that risk has been seen to have been reduced to approximately 1 percent in all patients,” he said.

Patients who qualify for the TCAR procedure are those who have either had a prior stroke or neurologic event from carotid plaque or those who have a critical stenosis — which is the narrowing of an artery — that increases their stroke risk over the next two to three years. Patients in eastern North Carolina who fit into one of these categories previously had to travel to the Research Triangle or to Virginia to receive the safer, more effective TCAR repair, Ehlert said.

“This now provides patients the opportunity to have their procedure done here locally,” said Ehlert, adding that makes the entire process easier for patients and their families. “It also provides us a way to treat those patients who were previously found to be unfit for general anesthesia and a traditional open revascularization.”

ECU surgeons have already performed nearly 20 TCAR procedures since July. According to Silk Road Medical, the California-based company that develops the devices used in the TCAR procedure, this makes ECU and Vidant’s TCAR program one of the fastest growing in the nation.

ECU sociologist examines accessibility issues

ECU professor of sociology Dr. Mamadi Corra is spending a year in Washington, D.C. Corra was named to a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship from the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

Corra is among 300 new AAAS fellows recognized by his peers. Through the fellowship, which began Sept. 1 and runs through through Aug. 31, 2019, Corra is working with the judicial branch of the U.S. government, specifically at the Federal Judicial Center – the research and education wing of the federal judiciary – located in the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Building.

Corra’s main area of teaching and research is in social stratification and inequality, broadly defined. More specifically, his research focuses on social psychology – power and status; race, ethnic, gender and class inequalities; and immigration. He has taught courses in introduction to sociology, principles of sociology, sociology of the family, social structures, social inequality, and racial and cultural minorities.

According to the AAAS website, the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship provides opportunities for scientists and engineers to contribute to federal policymaking while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy by addressing today’s most pressing societal challenges.

“Receiving the fellowship gives me the unique opportunity to fulfill a long-standing aspiration – to apply my scientific (sociological) knowledge to public policy,” said Corra.

As an example, Corra mentioned that in his first two-and-a-half weeks in Washington he learned something new about a policy-relevant issue that is of personal interest to him as a visually impaired individual; that the accessibility of federal courts may only be framed in the context of the federal judiciary.

“A goal of mine is looking at accessibility issues in the federal judiciary with the hope of developing a policy document on improving the accessibility of federal courts,” he said.

Corra came to ECU in 2003. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of South Carolina, and his master’s in business administration and bachelor of science degrees in sociology and business administration from Gardner-Webb University.

Brody names director of alumni affairs

The Brody School of Medicine at ECU has named its first director of alumni affairs.

Laura McFall Bond will oversee Brody’s efforts to increase the medical school’s engagement with alumni through communications and strategic events. She comes to Brody from the ECU Pirate Club where, as the director of special events and hospitality, she oversaw donor-related events, managed football and men’s basketball gameday hospitality, and led the alumni Letterwinner Experience aimed at bringing former student-athletes together for reunion activities.

Bond brings six years of experience in working with alumni and students through her employment with ECU and two fraternity headquarters, Pi Kappa Alpha and Pi Kappa Phi. She has served on the University of Tennessee’s Martin Young Alumni Council as well as their Martin-Memphis Alumni Board. She supports the ECU Chapter of Chi Omega as their adviser.

Bond completed her master’s degree in leadership and policy studies at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., in 2015. She earned her undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2012.

“Brody is a huge asset to the state of North Carolina, and I am overjoyed to be in a position to work with alumni, faculty, students and staff who are making the world a better place,” said Bond.