Quick stroke treatment has lasting benefits, study shows
June 9, 1999
Web posted at: 5:01 p.m. EDT (1831 GMT)
(CNN) -- A 1995 study found that patients who were treated with a clot-busting agent within three hours of the onset of a stroke were 30 percent more likely to have no disability three months later. A follow-up study published in the week's New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who received this quick treatment continued to do well six months and a year after a stroke.
Researchers for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), who conducted this two-part study, looked at patients who received a clot-busting agent, or tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), within three hours of an ischemic stroke, the most common form of stroke.
These strokes are caused by a sudden blood clot that cuts circulation and oxygen to the brain, often damaging the brain tissue. In many cases, use of t-PA within three hours of the onset of symptoms restored the flow of blood. And the sooner the medication was dispensed, the better the patient's chances for recovery.
In the most recent NINDS study, 624 patients with stroke were randomly assigned to receive either t-PA or a placebo. Data on these patients were then collected for a year after their strokes. Like the three-month 1995 study, researchers found that patients treated with t-PA were 30 percent more likely to have minimal or no disability six and 12 months after a stroke compared to the patients who were treated with the placebo.
"The benefit is sustained," said Dr. Michael Frankel of Emory University.
T-PA is commonly dispensed in emergency rooms for heart attacks. Doctors have started referring to strokes as "brain attacks" to convey the sense of emergency. Now that more effective treatments are at hand to deal with strokes, every minute counts.
Medical Correspondent Dan Rutz contributed to this report.
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The New England Journal of Medicine
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
American Academy of Neurology
Stroke Prevention Guidelines Introduction
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