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How A New Brain Scan is Changing Stroke Treatment

There’s a good chance you know someone who has had a stroke. About 795,000 people have a stroke each year in the U.S. That’s more than 2,100 families touched by stroke every day.

Now the results of a new study may give some stroke victims and their families reason for optimism.


What Is a Stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency. You should know the symptoms of a stroke.

A stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is slowed or stopped. Then brain tissue begins to die off. This can result in lifelong disability or death.

A common cause of stroke is a loose blood clot. It can plug or block a blood vessel supplying the brain. This is an ischemic stroke.


Stroke Treatment

A standard treatment for some patients with an ischemic stroke is endovascular thrombectomy. This procedure uses a catheter inserted in the patient’s groin. The doctor guides the catheter to the heart to remove the clot.

This procedure is approved when it can be performed within six hours of stroke onset. After that time, the prospect for saving brain tissue is reduced.

Unfortunately, the six hours can lapse before this treatment can be administered. This can happen if someone is asleep upon stroke onset or is unable to get timely medical care.


Research That Should Save Lives

Now researchers have found an innovative imaging technique that can extend the six-hour limit in certain patients. The technique uses perfusion imaging combined with special software.

With this approach, doctors can identify patients with brain tissue that can be saved up to 16 hours after stroke onset. This innovation gives doctors an additional 10 hours to remove a dangerous brain vessel blockage.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The organization’s director, Walter Koroshetz, M.D., says, “These striking results will have an immediate impact. They’ll help save people from life-long disability or death. I really cannot overstate the size of this effect. The study shows that one out of three stroke patients who present with at-risk brain tissue on their scans improve. Some may walk out of the hospital saved from what would otherwise have been a devastating brain injury.”


Stroke Warning Signs

Time is still of the essence if someone has a stroke. Watch for poor balance, drooping face, slurred speech and arms that can’t be controlled.

Know the signs. Be ready if someone you know becomes a stroke victim.

Telestroke is another innovation that can help save lives by extending the reach of elite stroke treatment. Learn more!


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Meet the Author

Elizabeth Traynor, MD is a neurologist at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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