Pioneering stroke treatment leaves less patients with disability

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Advanced brain imaging is a critical component of a new treatment for stroke patients. (stock image)
Advanced brain imaging is a critical component of a new treatment for stroke patients. (stock image)

A pioneering stroke treatment will change the way doctors approach the treatment worldwide.

Australian researchers from Royal Melbourne Hospital almost doubled the amount of patients who walked out of the hospital after having the most debilitating form of stroke by using an approach which combined two traditional treatments with latest technology.

One in six Australians will suffer a stroke in their lifetime, and two-thirds will develop some form of post-traumatic disability.

Combining new technology with the traditional

Doctors used a form of advanced brain injury imaging to discover the parts of the brain which were irreparably damaged and those which were still treatable. New stent technology was then used to remove the clot. Removing the clot permits blood to flow black to the brain, critical to the recovery process.

When used with traditional clot-busting medication the proportion of patients who were not left with a disability increased significantly, from 40 to 70 per cent.

The new treatment would most benefit patients who suffer the most extreme kind of stroke, ischemic stroke, which is where a clot causes a blockage within an artery.

Imagery 'critical component'

Key researcher and neurologist Dr Bruce Campbell said a critical component of the new treatment was advanced brain imaging.

"To actually look into a patient's brain and see which parts were already irreversibly damaged that we couldn't save, versus how much was actually salvageable if we could get the artery open quickly… is a major difference between our trial and many of the other trials," Dr Campbell said.

"This is a treatment that applies to patients with the most severe types of strokes, the strokes that are likely to cause disability, people who end up in nursing homes or even dead, and so it is a major advance."

Fellow researcher Associate Professor Peter Mitchell described the approach as "revolutionary".

"We've had these spectacular anecdotal reports where we remove the blood clot, someone is densely paralysed in their arm or leg, can't speak and then on the table, or within 24 hours they're almost normal and they can go home within a couple of days," he said. 

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