Study shows stroke damage could be reversible

The early use of “clot-busting” drugs reversed stroke injury in subjects participating in a study at the University of California Los Angeles Stroke Unit. The university’s Dr. Chelsea Kidwell says that the study offers proof that brain injury from stroke can be reversed in humans.

The study used a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the condition of seven patients after an acute stroke, before and after treatment with the drugs. Reporting in the April issue of Annals of Neurology, the researchers say their findings demonstrate that when the clot dissolves, it can prevent further brain injury from a stroke and reverse damage that has occurred.

Clot busting (or thrombolytic) drugs, which work by dissolving the blood clot that is stopping blood flow, are often used to treat heart attacks. Timing is crucial for both strokes and heart attacks, as the drugs must be administered within three hours of the start of symptoms.

Doctors say there is a critical “time window” during which the drugs can be given safely and effectively. The most important consideration is getting the stroke patient to the hospital in time for the treatment to be given. With this new search showing that the drugs can actually reverse damage, that timing is more important than ever.