Results of promising Australian research into clot busting treatments for stroke will today be announced by researchers at an international stroke conference in the United States.
The study, co-ordinated by the Royal Melbourne Hospital and conducted by the Australasian Stroke Trialists Network including the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Stroke Research Group demonstrates that clot busting (thrombolysis) treatment can be effective when administered up to six hours after a stroke.
The HMRI Stroke Research Group brings together clinical researchers from Hunter New England Health and medical researchers from the University of Newcastle as part of the Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health.
Thrombolysis is the only proven acute stroke drug treatment that exists. When administered in the first few hours after stroke, it has been shown to improve outcomes by dissolving blood clots causing blood vessel blockages in the brain, allowing blood flow to return to the brain thereby preventing the stroke damage. Previously, this treatment had not been proved effective beyond three hours.
Using MRI imaging technology, researchers were able to assess each patient's suitability for the clot busting treatment.
"This is the first randomised trial using MRI to evaluate extending the time window for treatment and better select patients for potentially life saving stroke treatment," said Associate Professor Chris Levi from Hunter New England Health who leads the HMRI Stroke Research Group.
"Better selection of patients has the potential to open up treatment opportunities to many more stroke patients than we currently treat."
Results of the study have been published in the online edition of The Lancet Neurology journal.
"Early treatment following a stroke is crucial as damage to the brain after a stroke is time linked - the longer the time between stroke onset and treatment, generally the greater the damage," Associate Professor Levi said.
Hunter patients have been among the first to benefit from clot busting treatments with a large proportion of the trial participants coming from John Hunter Hospital. Many acute stroke centres in Australia are licensed to deliver the thrombolysis treatment, however until now, only to patients who are less than three hours post stroke.
Conducted at John Hunter Hospital and co-ordinated by the Royal Melbourne Hospital, two of Australia's leading centres for acute stroke research, the results of the study in extending the time window for treatment could increase the number of stroke patients benefiting from clot busting treatments to 5,000 a year.
Chief Investigator, Professor Stephen Davis from Royal Melbourne Hospital will present the results on behalf of the investigators on the final day of the American Heart and Stroke Association International Stroke Conference 2008 in New Orleans.
HMRI is a partnership between Hunter New England Health, the University of Newcastle and the community.
Associate Professor Levi is available for interview at John Hunter Hospital on Monday 25 February, 2008.