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MRI May Determine Stroke Onset Time, Treatment Options

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 4, 2010

Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain could increase the number of stroke patients eligible for a potentially life-saving treatment, according to a study in the December issue of Radiology.

The Patient:

Some patients who suffer an acute ischemic stroke, when a blood clot or other obstruction blocks blood flow in the brain, can be treated with a drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, that dissolves the clot and restores blood flow.

However, the clot-busting drug can only be administered within four and a half hours of a stroke. Any time longer than that and the drug can cause bleeding in the brain.

"As many as a quarter of all stroke patients cannot be given tPA because they wake up with stroke symptoms or are unable to tell their doctor when their stroke began," said lead researcher Catherine Oppenheim, MD, professor of radiology at Université Paris Descartes in France.

The Stats:

The American Stroke Association says strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind diseases of the heart and cancer. Approximately 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

Oppenheim and her researchers reviewed data from consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke treated at Sainte-Anne Hospital in Paris between May 2006 and October 2008. The time of stroke onset was well defined in all patients and each underwent MRI within 12 hours.

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