Then, there's the second study, focusing on the pain reliever acetaminophen -- best known in the United States under the brand name Tylenol. According to background information in the study, many patients having a stroke experience fever, and they tend to have poorer recovery.
"The theory is that certain cells in the brain are not getting enough blood flow, and if the temperature of the body is high, then the metabolic rate of the cells is high, and they need more blood and oxygen -- or they will die," Friedman explained. "If the person is cool, then perhaps the metabolism will slow down and [the brain cells] could live longer."
Currently, guidelines recommend using acetaminophen or a related drug in patients whose temperature is above 99.5 degrees F, although, according to the authors, there has been little evidence to show that this actually improves outcomes.
For this study, 1,400 patients were randomly assigned to receive either acetaminophen or a placebo.
The therapy was started within 12 hours of symptoms of an ischemic stroke (the most common kind) or intracerebral hemorrhage.
Although giving acetaminophen did not significantly benefit the bulk of patients, 40 percent of patients with body temperatures ranging from normal to 102.2 F did benefit significantly, versus only 31 percent of those receiving a placebo.
The study authors warned that acetaminophen should not be dispensed to all patients having a stroke. And even the finding that the drug benefits those with a certain body temperature needs to be confirmed, they added.
Friedman agreed, and said that many doctors are already providing fever-relieving medicines to stroke patients who need it.
"I do not believe that most clinicians are using acetaminophen in the short term with all patients who have stroke, [although] most physicians feel that avoiding fever in peopl
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