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Munson Healthcare announces launch of Endovascular Stroke Program on World Stroke Day


Stroke intervention team is using revolutionary new technology to save minutes and save lives across Northern Michigan.

Munson Healthcare is attracting new talent and investing in the latest technology to transform stroke intervention care across nine integrated and affiliated hospitals in Northern Michigan to save lives and improve outcomes.

On World Stroke Day, a new ARTIS Icono Biplane Angiography System was unveiled at Munson Medical Center (MMC) in Traverse City, the first in Michigan and one of only seven in the United States. This cutting edge bi-plane technology allows the neurosurgeon to view the brain in 2D, 3D, or 4D for intricate placement of specialized tools inserted through small blood vessels in the wrist or other area of the body to remove blood clots or treat aneurysms.

“We are providing interventional stroke care in a way that has never been done in this region,” said Gary Rajah, MD, director of Munson Healthcare’s Endovascular Stroke Program. “The expertise and technology now in place at Munson Healthcare will have an incredible impact in saving lives and preserving the quality of life for those who suffer a stroke.”

Dr. Rajah, a graduate of Wayne State University and proud Michigander, joined Munson Healthcare in June 2020 following a fellowship at the world-renowned Gates Vascular Institute in Western New York – part of the University at Buffalo Canon Stroke and Vascular Research Center. Rajah has expertise in cerebrovascular, endovascular, stroke and skull-based neurosurgery as well as thrombectomy and aneurysm coiling. Since successfully completing the first thrombectomy ever performed in the region back in September, he and his team have performed the procedure for over 20 patients.

“Rural healthcare systems across the country are challenged to find specialists who are in short supply and high demand,” said Ed Ness, President and CEO, Munson Healthcare. “We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Dr. Rajah’s expertise and vision to provide a high level of care to patients across the region and build a new model for stroke intervention in rural communities.”

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated that each year, between 200 and 250 stroke cases in Northern Michigan required transfer downstate for a neurosurgical procedure. Each hour treatment of a stroke is delayed can mean a 7.7% decrease in the chance for functional independence and a loss of 1.9 million neurons with the passing of each minute. Providing endovascular intervention to these patients at Munson Medical Center means saving time, saving lives and preserving quality of life with better functional outcomes.

“Minutes truly matter when it comes to stroke,” said Christine Nefcy, MD, Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer. “It’s vital to call 911 at the very first signs of a stroke because once a patient is at any Munson Healthcare emergency department, staff collaborates with Munson Medical Center to determine if an endovascular intervention is appropriate and then coordinates transport by air or ground to Traverse City.”

When you or a loved one is suffering a stroke it is important to B.E. F.A.S.T. The acronym identifies the symptoms of a stroke and life-saving action that needs to be taken including: Balance (sudden loss of balance or coordination). Eyes (blurred or double-vision). Face (drooping). Arms (weakness or numbness). Speech (slurred or garbled). Time to call 911.

For more information and images and to watch a recording of the virtual press conference visit: