Stroke patients and their doctors used to be faced with few treatment options. With an estimated 795,000 people experiencing a stroke in 2019, it’s important to be aware of the progress made in the treatment of stroke. Let’s look at major developments along the timeline of stroke treatments:
IV Clot-Busting Drugs
In 1993, the intravenous drug tPA began to be used within the first 3 hours of a stroke with remarkable success. Stroke patients were able to walk out of the hospital after receiving this drug, the first FDA-approved stroke treatment.
First Responders and Emergency Personnel Trained
Hospitals had to rethink how they handled stroke patients. Since time was important, they needed to streamline the process, starting with the paramedics who would respond first and ending with the neurologists who were not accustomed to working quickly in an emergency setting. Specialized training, along with the development of technology that helped identify a stroke in progress, shortened the time required to diagnose and begin treatment.
Public Awareness Raised
Unless the public understood what a stroke was and became aware of its symptoms, stroke patients could not get the help they needed fast. Public education programs to raise the awareness of stroke symptoms and to emphasize the importance of getting the patient medical attention quickly were essential.
New Technology Developed
For severe strokes, a catheter was created that could remove a blood clot from the bloodstream, preventing further blockage. Brain scanning, where a dye was injected into the brain, allowed doctors to see where the blood flow is restricted in the brain and what areas of the brain might be damaged.
Stroke Prevention Emphasized
In the 1960s, researchers noticed that populations located in the southeastern part of the US experienced higher than normal rates of stroke. This area became known as the “Stroke Belt,” and research into the causes became the foundation for the risk factors in developing stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and elevated blood sugar levels, along with smoking and obesity, were found to be linked to a higher incidence of stroke. The research also discovered that African Americans were more likely to suffer from stroke, and from this observation, other risk factors, such as race, gender, and age, were studied.
Stroke Rehabilitation Studied
The National Institutes of Health funded studies in 2017 that looked at what happened to brain cells during a stroke and what therapies could best encourage neuroplasticity (i.e., where the brain works to repair itself). More research is needed in this area, as doctors and scientists don’t know enough about how the brain repairs itself to create therapies that support this process. In addition, most of the research has focused on ischemic strokes (where the blood flow to the brain is blocked) rather than hemorrhagic strokes (where a blood vessel has burst in the brain), so many of the treatment developments only apply to ischemic strokes. More research is needed to help patients who have bleeding into the brain.
In 25 years, significant improvements in stroke treatment and research have been made. Doctorpedia is excited to share the latest developments in stroke treatment and cheer on the doctors and researchers who are working to assist stroke patients toward a full recovery!
Nan Kuhlman is an author, freelance writer, and part-time university professor based in Los Angeles, CA. She currently works full-time as a technical writer in Los Angeles and part-time as an online adjunct writing instructor. She has written for scholarly publications like the University of California, Davis Writing on the Edge and Chapman University’s Anastamos Interdisciplinary Journal, among others.