Sanford neurosurgeon's pediatric stroke case published in national journal

January 12, 2017

FARGO, N.D. - A 9-day-old baby who suffered a normally fatal stroke was saved after a Sanford Health cerebrovascular neurosurgeon removed the clot by combining mechanical and medicinal therapies. The unique case, completed by Alexander Drofa, M.D., is published in Pediatric Neurosurgery.

Drofa and his surgical team at the Sanford Brain and Spine Center in Fargo reestablished blood flow to the infant's brain by administering clot-dissolving drugs and mechanically clearing the blockage using a stent retriever designed to apply force to the clot. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off.

The case, said Drofa, was especially challenging because the baby had entered a coma. According to a 2005 study published in Brain, coma in such instances is a strong predictor of death. Additionally, mechanical removal of stroke clots is rare in children because they don't often suffer strokes.

"We believe this to be the youngest stroke patient in the world to have been successfully treated with a stent retriever and drugs," said Drofa. "Because of the severity of this case, it was necessary for the neurosurgery team to explore an aggressive therapy to give the infant a better chance at survival. The positive outcome is promising for future cases of this nature."

Drofa is a fellowship-trained cerebrovascular neurosurgeon who practices at the Sanford Neuroscience Clinic in Fargo. He offers traditional neurosurgery procedures, complex skull-base surgery and advanced interventional care for stroke and aneurysm.

The study appears in a recent issue of Pediatric Neurosurgery, which publishes new information and observations in pediatric neurosurgery, neurology, neuroradiology and neuropathology.
About Sanford Health

Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health's 28,000 employees, including more than 1,300 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit

Sanford Health/Sanford Research

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