brain image


Stroke: Medical Crisis!

   

 

The saddest brainstorm

Risks and hazards

Treatment Conundrum

Big hopes, big flops

Clot clout.





stop watch

   

Stroke: clot-busters to the rescue?
13 APRIL 2000 As former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi fights for his life after a massive stroke, The Why Files wonders how to treat a loss of blood to the brain.

Strokes are no laughing matter: In the United States, they are the number-three cause of death; in 1997, they killed 160,000 people.

Between 600,000 and 750,000 Americans have a stroke each year. Another 500,000 mini-strokes, called transient ischemic attacks, briefly produce stroke symptoms. A recent study indicates that the rate of strokes has begun rising after a period of decline.

Before and after clotbuster: The top image is an MRI of a brain with a
                                   clogged middle cerebral artery. The bottom image shows improved
                                   blood circulation after quick administration of a clot-busting drug.

Before and after clotbuster: The top image is an MRI of a brain with a clogged middle cerebral artery. The bottom image shows improved blood circulation after quick administration of a clot-busting drug.

© Gottfried Schlaug, director of neuroimaging, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Strokes kill brain cells. Depending on where in the brain they occur, they can destroy just about any brain function. For stroke survivors, the odds of permanent disability range from 15 to 30 percent. With an estimated 4.4 million survivors in the United States alone, you can understand why strokes are called the biggest cause of serious, long-term disability.

About 20 percent of strokes occur when a brain artery breaks, causing massive bleeding, and often death. We'll focus on the remaining 80 percent: strokes that follow the clogging of an artery delivering blood to the brain.

Suddenly, treatment is possibleTime = Brain
Once dismissed by doctors as an untreatable ailment of old age, these "ischemic" strokes are now seen as medical emergencies. As Wayne Clark, director of the Oregon Stroke Center puts it, "Time is brain." Often, he says, major damage occurs within half an hour of the blockage.

There are two reasons for haste: Brain cells quickly die without oxygen and sugar delivered by blood. And the only drug available for treating stroke in the United States stops working three hours after the blockage starts.

Having a stroke?
To recognize a stroke quickly, you've gotta know the symptoms.

Sudden:

numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body.

confusion or trouble speaking or understanding

trouble seeing or walking.


trouble with walking balance or coordination.

severe, unexplainable headache.

 

If you feel the above symptoms, call an ambulance or rush to an emergency room. Delay is risky! Acting fast can save your brain cells.

Too many strokes
Depending on what part of the brain loses its blood supply, a stroke can interfere with speech, movement, vision or thought. More than 20 percent of people with ischemic strokes -- those involving loss of blood to the brain -- die. Some people recover after a stroke, but the brain isn't good at healing.

Every 53 seconds, there's another stroke in the United States. Who is struck by stroke?

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