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05

New Development Regarding the Care of Stroke Victims

Posted on Jul 05, 2013 by Sergio Ulloa ()  | Tags: heart disease, research, stroke care, stroke victims, strokes, study

People who have suffered a major stroke are often left immobile and require bed care in the immediate aftermath of the event. Being immobile can lead to several other health issues such as deep vein thrombosis ( DVT) which can in turn result in blood clots forming and trigger another stroke. However, new research is testing an intervention that reduces the risk associated with this period of intensive care after the stroke itself.

Strokes are the sinister sibling of heart disease and account for almost 10% of deaths across the world. As other causes of mortality, such as diarrhoeal diseases and HIV/AIDs, which loom larger in poorer countries hopefully fall away as a consequence of increasing affluence over time, stroke related deaths will almost certainly become even more significant.

Strokes occurs when the vital  process of getting oxygen to the brain fails due to the result of a blood clot or a bleed within the brain. The likelihood of either of these eventualities  increases significantly with age with some three quarters of all stroke victims averaging over 65.

The consequences of a stroke are immediate and are both damaging and distressing. The victim may feel numbed, weak or paralysed on just one side. There may be some speech-slurring, an inability to find words or to comprehend others. Some people experience sight loss or blurring of their vision, and others experience confusion or a lack, or loss, of balance. There are of course the usual range of lifestyle choices that are seen as raising risk of stroke for any individual - smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise and associated high blood pressure.

In the west however, death rates from strokes have fallen - in the US the fall was some 30% between 1995-2005. As with heart attacks, more people now survive a stroke but victims suffer lasting consequences which can  seriously impair quality of life. Statistics from  the United States  show that strokes are the largest single cause of serious long term disability. Strokes can lead to continuing paralysis, speech and vision problems and an inability to perform basic bodily functions such as swallowing.

The crucial thing is to try to ensure that care in the period immediately after a stroke doesn't in itself generate further problems or risks for the victim. Investigations in Scotland have tested a fairly low tech solution to one of these problems.

The immobility that is an immediate experience for many stroke victims itself produces a possibility of deep vein thrombosis, further blood clots and another stroke. It's exactly the same issue that faces some long- haul fliers but the compression socks that are sometimes recommended in that situation have been tested and found beneficial for stroke victims.

The new research make use of inexpensive leg wraps which are inflatable and  which regularly squeeze the legs  keeping the blood flowing and thus preventing the  formation of fatal blood clots.

The trial, which involved nearly 3,000 people, tested the devices on stroke sufferers. The wraps squeeze the legs repetitively and this sends  blood back to the heart. Trial patients used the wraps for about a month or until they were mobile again.

In the study,  the incidence of blood clots fell from a typical level of some 12%  to closer to 8%. Estimates suggest that the wider introduction of this approach could help around 60,000 stroke patients each year in the UK who experience severe mobility problems after their stroke. Treating this number of people  could prevent some 3,000 people from experiencing   deep vein thrombosis and even save up to 1,500 lives.

The Royal College of Physicians applauded this research as a significant development, highlighting how an undramatic and safe treatment might be a life-saver. It was  also claimed to be  is one of the most significant recent studies to come out of  the area  of stroke care.

The Stroke Association charity, endorsed this saying that  outcome of the study were hugely  encouraging and urging that this new approach with its potential to save so many lives should be adopted as part of  national  guidelines.

The possibility that this form of treatment might also have benefits for other patients whose conditions result in prolonged immobility, with all of the attendant risks, such a pneumonia is likely to be investigated.

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