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New Advances May Treat Stroke Faster, Better
Date:2/20/2009

Innovations include 'brain stents' and a clot-busting drug delivered directly to the brain

FRIDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Tiny tubes called stents, used for years to open blocked coronary blood vessels, may also work well to reopen brain blood vessels clogged from strokes, according to new research.

A variety of other advances promise to improve stroke treatment or prevention as well, a panel of researchers said. Among the developments, presented Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in San Diego:

  • Using new delivery systems to make a medication more effective in breaking up clots in the brain;
  • Finding new genetic clues to predict who might develop an aneurysm, a weakened brain blood vessel that can rupture and cause a devastating hemorrhagic stroke;
  • Treating people who have low cholesterol levels but elevated levels of a stroke-linked inflammatory marker with the anti-cholesterol drug Crestor, which nearly halved users' risk for stroke in a recent trial.

First, the stent research. According to Dr. J. Mocco, clinical assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, N.Y., the use of a tiny, self-expanding stent seems to be an effective and safe way to reopen blood vessels blocked after an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes make up the majority of attacks and occur when a blood vessel is blocked.

The FDA-approved pilot study involved 20 stroke patients averaging 63 years of age, all of whom had no blood flow through the affected brain blood vessel after the stroke. However, after the stent was put in place, "all had adequate blood flow," Mocco said.

Some also received the powerful clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), in use since 1996. While the time window for tPA usefulness is within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms, Mocco said he achieved success in reopening vessels when inserting stents up to about eight hour
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