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Senor Health - Treating Ischemic Strokes

Dec 15, 2017 by Comfort Keepers Denver

A stroke, formally called a cerebrovascular accident or CVA, is classified as damage to the brain as a result from the interruption of blood supply. It is a medical emergency and should be taken seriously. The earlier the treatment, the more likely the patient is to recover mostly, if not entirely. Treating it too late can result in severe brain damage or even death.

A new study shows that very few stroke patients are actually receiving the treatment they need. Why is this the case? Read on for more:

Types of Strokes

There are generally two kinds of strokes: hemorrhagic and ischemic.

Hemorrhagic strokes result from a blood vessel in the brain bursting, causing blood to flow out of the membrane and into open space in the brain instead of to the cells it was intended to go to.

An ischemic stroke results from a clot blocking a vessel, blocking blood flow from that vessel to the brain – sort of like a dam blocking water.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment

Whereas treatment for a hemorrhagic stroke simply involves stopping the bleeding, ischemic stroke treatment is a little more invasive – the clot needs to be broken up and passed to return blood flow in the vessel.

That is, until a certain medication came along. A common ischemic stroke medication, intravenous (IV) alteplase, has been saving stroke patients’ lives since its approval by the FDA in 1996. It’s given via IV and works to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain.

Interestingly, a study spanning from 2008 to 2013 shows that less than 10% of ischemic stroke patients actually receive this life-saving medicine. The study observed 9,620 stroke patients in 48 different American hospitals.

This is terrifying, as the research also showed that those patients who did not receive the treatment had a 49% higher likelihood of death as little as one year later.

Healthcare Professionals Slow to Use A Proven Treatment

This low rate of IV alteplase administration may be due to healthcare professionals’ worries about complications with the drug. The most common worry is internal bleeding.

However, unless major contraindications to the drug are present, it should be given to all ischemic stroke patients.

Now that this study is highlighting a problem with stroke treatment, hopefully the rates of stroke death will decrease and ischemic stroke recovery increase in the years to come.

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