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Quality of Life for Stroke Patients

Posted on January 3, 2011

For the first time in over fifty years, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that stroke is no longer the third leading cause of death in the United States.  Dr. Demetrius Lopes, stroke expert and fellowship-trained endovascular neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago applauds these results and attributes the drop in deaths to the proliferation of certified stroke centers.  In Illinois alone, there are thirty-three stroke centers certified by the Joint Commission.   The American Heart Association is also optimistic on the improvements in stroke care in this country.  They recently released a top 10 list of advances in stroke care, which include:

  •  Clot-busting drugs found most effective in the first 4.5 hours after stroke and perhaps harmful afterward.
  • Scientists identified a new way the body clears clots from brain vessels, thus restoring blood flow.
  • Opening narrowed neck arteries by surgery or stent has similar risks and benefits, but surgery appears better for those over 70.
  • New AHA hospital guidelines improve outcomes of stroke patients.
  • Researchers identified the 10 major risk factors for a stroke and found that reducing blood pressure and smoking, and encouraging physical activity and a healthy diet could significantly cut the number of strokes around the world.
  • An international study found that ultrasound can detect silent micro-clots in patients at risk for stroke and help determine which patients might benefit from surgery or stenting.
  • Robot-assisted therapy can improve arm function after stroke, although not more than intensive care from a physical therapist.
  • Patients with the genetic disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are at risk for brain bleeds, but the risk can be managed with the use of beta-blockers, which lower blood pressure.
  • Dramatically lowering blood pressure early after a hemorrhagic stroke can prevent the bleeding from spreading, thereby improving outcomes.
  • Physical activity, even walking and other moderate exercise, reduces the risk of stroke in women.

Stroke specialists, like Dr. Lopes, are leading the way in enhancing the understanding of optimal treatments and prevention for stroke.  While mortality rates are important, Dr. Lopes suggests that stroke treatment has a long way to go, since stroke is still the leading cause of disability in this country.  “Improving the quality of life of stroke survivors is what drives the stroke specialists at Rush University Medical Center.  We believe that mortality is an old paradigm, and what patients really want from us is better quality of life and the ability to return to work.”   Stroke research at Rush led by Dr. Lopes and his colleagues focuses on changing early treatment protocols and refining patient selection criteria for various advanced stroke therapies. “As highlighted in the top 10 list above from the American Heart Association, we are beginning to better understand which patients respond better to which treatments,” comments Dr. Lopes.  “It is the responsibility of comprehensive stroke centers, like the center at Rush, to have all treatment options available.”

Dr. Lopes welcomes comments to his blog in the area provided below.  He also accepts email inquiries at info@chicagostrokemd.com.