Bengaluru doctors treat senior citizen whose hand ‘stole’ blood from brain

The patient with Subclavian Steal Syndrome was finding it difficult to speak particularly when using his left hand for work

Updated - July 22, 2023 12:56 pm IST

Published - July 22, 2023 11:44 am IST - Bengaluru

For the last two months, the patient suffering from Subclavian Steal Syndrome was finding it difficult to speak, particularly when using his left hand for work. Image for representation purpose only.

For the last two months, the patient suffering from Subclavian Steal Syndrome was finding it difficult to speak, particularly when using his left hand for work. Image for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: Pixabay

Can a hand “steal” blood from the brain? Yes, say doctors at a private hospital in Bengaluru who last week diagnosed a not-so-common condition in a 72-year-old patient from Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh.

For the last two months, the patient was finding it difficult to speak, particularly when using his left hand for work. He had already suffered a stroke twice. Following a thorough investigation by doctors, it was found that the left hand of the patient was “stealing” blood from the brain as the left side of the subclavian artery through which blood is meant to flow to the hand arteries was blocked due to cholesterol build up, in a condition called Subclavian Steal Syndrome.

“The solution was simple. Just give blood to the hand, so that it stops stealing blood from the brain. We did stenting of cholesterol blocks. Immediately, his stroke symptoms stopped,” said Harsha K.J., Stroke and Neuro-Intervention Specialist Brains Super Speciality Hospital in the city.

Rare phenomenon

Calling this a rare phenomenon being observed in patients with multiple comorbidities, the doctor said, “When the patient developed difficulty in speaking while using his left hand, he was worried this was a third stroke. But, his speech was normal when he did not use his left hand. This needed to be investigated.”

“We did an ultrasound scan of the neck arteries, and found that blood was flowing to the back side of the brain, but from the brain it was going to the left hand. His left hand was ‘stealing’ blood from the brain, rather than getting blood from the heart,” the doctor explained.

What angiogram revealed

“Backside of the brain receives blood supply from two small arteries in the back of the neck. These arteries share blood with hand arteries as well via a common artery called subclavian artery. This subclavian artery receives blood from the heart. Unfortunately, the left side of the common artery was blocked by cholesterol because of which the left hand was severely short of blood. But the back side of the brain was getting blood supply from the other side of the artery,” Dr. Harsha said. They did an angiogram of the brain to find this.

“Even if one side was blocked, the other side was compensating for the blood supply. So the hand started ‘stealing’ blood from the brain, resulting in a stroke, because of which the patient developed speaking difficulty. After our intervention, his  speech was back and within three days he was discharged,” the doctor said.

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