Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Annual Report 2014-2015

In the Spotlight

Research saves a stroke patient’s life and changes stroke treatment around the world

Claude Corneau realized something was very wrong the moment he started dropping his mechanic’s tools at work.

It was January 23, 2014, and although he didn’t realize it at the time, a massive blood clot was blocking blood flow to his brain. Corneau, 70, was suffering a life-threatening stroke.

“I don’t remember much after the ambulance came,” said Corneau, a husband, father and grandfather from Calabogie, Ontario. “But I do remember waking up briefly and realizing that we were on the way to The Ottawa Hospital, and I was very happy about that.”

The Ottawa Hospital provides world-class, compassionate care to approximately 1,200 stroke patients every year, but Corneau also received something extra special that day. He was the first person in Ottawa to be treated in a clinical trial that would save his life and eventually change how strokes are treated around the world.

“This research has really brought my husband back to life. We’re able to see our children and our grandchildren, and I’m not alone.”

-Shirley Corneau

“The standard of care initially was to try to dissolve these large blood clots with medication,” explained Dr. Cheemun Lum, a neuroradiologist at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa. “This trial was testing a new device which we insert through the leg artery. We manoeuvre it up into the brain and then we pluck out the clot and pull it out of the brain.”

Dr. Lum co-led The Ottawa Hospital’s arm of this international trial, along with Dr. Dariush Dowlatshahi.

The results were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. They show that people who received the experimental clot-plucking procedure in addition to the standard clot-dissolving medication were 50 percent less likely to die than those who received the medication alone. They were also almost twice as likely to have a positive recovery.

“The words ‘game-changer’ and ‘breakthrough’ have been used to describe this research. It really is the most significant advance in stroke therapy that I have witnessed in my career as a physician.”

-Dr. Cheemun Lum

Like many of the other participants in the study, Corneau was able to return home a couple of weeks after his stroke with no major disabilities. He was even able to return to work as a mechanic a few months later.  

“This research has really brought my husband back to life,” said Corneau’s wife, Shirley. “We’re able to see our children and our grandchildren, and I’m not alone.”

In fact, Claude and Shirley Corneau celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2014.

“The words ‘game-changer’ and ‘breakthrough’ have been used to describe this research,” said Dr. Lum. “It really is the most significant advance in stroke therapy that I have witnessed in my career as a physician. It’s very exciting for stroke patients and it is now becoming the standard of care around the world for patients with the biggest strokes and the largest clots.”

This clinical trial is just one of more than 600 trials involving nearly 9,000 patient volunteers conducted at The Ottawa Hospital in 2014. Many of these trials tested innovative new treatments, while others examined different ways to prevent or diagnose disease, or deliver health care more efficiently.

“The Ottawa Hospital is a great place to do research because a lot of our research focuses on exactly what The Ottawa Hospital is about, which is excellent patient care,” explained Dr. Dowlatshahi, a stroke neurologist at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, and scientific director of the Ottawa Stroke Program. “What we are trying to do is to treat the patients in front of us and treat their family but also learn from what we are doing so that we can improve care for all people at The Ottawa Hospital and around the world. This is Tender Loving Research.”

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“This research has really brought my husband back to life. We’re able to see our children and our grandchildren, and I’m not alone.”

-Shirley Corneau

“The words ‘game-changer’ and ‘breakthrough’ have been used to describe this research. It really is the most significant advance in stroke therapy that I have witnessed in my career as a physician.”

-Dr. Cheemun Lum