Radiologist helps revolutionize acute stroke management in New Brunswick

By Helen Murphy

With a dedicated team of colleagues, Dr. Brian Archer has introduced endovascular stroke treatment for New Brunswick patients. In doing so, he has demonstrated what is possible for other small healthcare centres across Canada.

In the vast majority of stroke cases, if patients seek treatment early enough, a clot-dissolving agent can save lives and give much higher quality of life. But with large clots, a dissolving agent alone does not yield good outcomes. For the past 10 years in New Brunswick, these patients have been referred to Dr. Brian Archer and his team at Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH) for clot removal — the first non-university hospital in Canada to offer the procedure.

“By being one of the first [Atlantic] Canadian doctors to offer clot retrieval, Dr. Archer has had an enormous effect on the health outcomes of countless New Brunswickers,” says fellow SJRH radiologist John Swan, MD, FRCPC.

Because the treatment is time-critical, Dr. Archer says it was imperative that this expertise was developed and offered in New Brunswick. “There is no time to fly patients out to a university hospital,” he explains.

For many of Dr. Archer’s patients, the results have been nothing short of amazing. He recalls a stroke victim who woke up in ICU after a successful clot-removal procedure and basically walked right back into his daily life.

“Because of his quick recovery, I think he and his family probably feel that he really wasn’t that sick at all.”

Jordan Kavanagh, MD, FRCPC, another radiologist at SJRH, says Dr. Archer is often called in for the most difficult cases. He gives the example of a 12-year-old girl with paralysis on one side of her body. Although the clot-removal procedure is rarely done in pediatric patients, after careful consultation with family and colleagues, it was decided that Dr. Archer and his colleague, John Whelan, MD, FRCPC, would take it on.

“The procedure was a complete success,” says Dr. Kavanagh. Dr. Archer is well-known for innovating procedures for patients with challenging conditions.

“As an example, he [and colleague Darren Ferguson, MD, FRCPC, were] able to embolize a crossbow injury to the liver by using the embedded projectile as a vascular access sheath,” recalls Dr. Swan. “To most of us, that would be the case of a lifetime. To Dr. Archer, that is a normal Tuesday evening.”

While colleagues call him a role model and the kind of physician other physicians turn to for advice and assistance in difficult times, he downplays this praise.

“Really, none of us want awards,” says Dr. Archer, who characterizes himself as average and attributes his professional success to good teamwork and an element of luck. “I have had grateful patients give me a hug and that is more than enough.”

Dr. Brian Archer was selected as is this year’s recipient of the Prix d’excellence – Specialist of the Year award for Atlantic Canada from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Helen Murphy, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This article is reprinted with permission from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.