Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clot-Busting Drugs Offer Hope to Stroke Sufferers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clot-Busting Drugs Offer Hope to Stroke Sufferers

Article excerpt

New clot-dissolving medicines are revolutionizing the way stroke patients are treated and, in rare cases, are saving the lives of people thought to be brain dead.

"We had one little girl who was 12" and suffered a stroke and "went from a near-comatose state to going back to school and getting A's and B's," said Dr. DeWitte Cross of Washington University School of Medicine.

Cross said he had seen 20 patients who suffered major strokes and were unresponsive or almost comatose and were helped significantly through clot-dissolving drugs. A major success happened in Portland, Ore., where a 41-year-old stroke victim appeared to be brain dead. Within hours after he received a clot-dissolving drug, he awoke, and eventually recovered, doctors reported recently at a neurology conference in Boston. While the victim, a rancher, had some vision loss and walking problems, he is driving a tractor and appears to have suffered no loss of power to think. Similar patients are being treated with clot-busting drugs. Doctors are reporting some incredible recoveries. Strokes often affect the elderly, but they can strike at any age. Cross said his 12-year-old patient probably suffered her stroke during a head injury in gymnastics class. About 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic, meaning they result from reduced blood flow to a portion of the brain; it's generally caused by a blood clot in a narrowed artery in the brain or neck. A clot-dissolving agent called TPA was first used to treat heart attacks in the 1980s. But last June, the Food and Drug Administration approved TPA - tissue plasminogen activator - as the first treatment for acute ischemic stroke. Under federal guidelines, TPA should be administered within three hours of the onset of a stroke. But in some cases, doctors have found that the so-called window of treatment can be much longer. …

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