Brain scans post-stroke can detect future risk

Experts have said that all patients who have suffered a stroke should be given a brain scan as soon as possible after the event happens, which can also help predict the risk of another stroke occurring.

Images of the brain taken straight after a patient has suffered a stroke can help doctors and other healthcare professionals assess the damage which has been done following the stroke, predict the possibility of another occurring and apply treatment accordingly.

Currently UK guidelines state that treatment is the priority for high-risk stroke patients, but stroke organisation the Stroke Association has said that thousands of lives could be saved by scanning and treating patients who have just suffered from a mini-stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) within 24 hours.

A research team at the University of Ottawa in Canada analysed more than 2,000 patients who had received CT scans within 24 hours of a TIA or otherwise non-disabling stroke, and saw that their scan revealed that 40% had permanent brain damage due to impaired circulation.

Doctors had previously been looking for signs of newly damaged tissue due to poor circulation, any previously damaged tissue and also damage to any type of small blood vessel in the brain, such as narrowing of the small vessels. A quarter of the study’s participants who had this sort of damage to their brain suffered another stroke within 90 days of their last one – meaning the scans had become a useful predicting tool.

Dr Jeffrey Perry, who led the study said; “During the 90-day period, and also within the first two days after the initial attack, patients did much worse in terms of experiencing a subsequent stroke if they had additional areas of damage along with acute ischaemia.”

He also added, “These findings should prompt physicians to be more aggressive in managing patients with TIA or non-disabling stroke who are diagnosed with acute ischaemia.”

Chris Larkin, regional head of operations at the Stroke Association commented; “Each year, around 46,000 people in the UK have a mini-stoke [TIA]. A quick response to stroke can significantly reduce the risk of death and disability. If patients with mini-stroke are assessed and treated as an emergency within 24 hours, the risk of a major stroke is reduced by 80%. This could prevent around 10,000 strokes each year in the UK and save over 3,000 people.”

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