Scottish doctors from The University of Edinburgh announced that cooling the brain of patients who have suffered a stroke could dramatically improve their recovery. They are joining other researchers from across Europe who believe that inducing hypothermia soon after a stroke can boost survival rates for some patients and reduce brain damage.
Stroke is the third biggest killer disease in Ireland with an estimated 10,000 people suffering stroke in Ireland each year, 2,000 of these being fatal. A stroke occurs when the normal blood flow to the brain is suddenly interrupted or blocked. This can be due to bleeding or haemorrhage from a blood vessel, or to a clot in a blood vessel. The result is loss of function in this part of the brain. Dr Malcolm Macleod, head of experimental neuroscience at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, explains that putting a patient’s brain on ice after they have suffered a stroke could dramatically increase their chances of recovery and reduce the occurrence of brain damage.
The treatment involves lowering a person’s body temperature to 35°C using ice cold intravenous drips and cooling pads. This allows doctors more time to deal with blocked or burst blood vessels as the body and blood supply is slowed. While disability and death from strokes is high across Europe, Dr Malcolm Macleod estimates that this treatment might improve the outcome for more than 40,000 Europeans every year who suffer stroke.
For those who survive stroke, the person may have difficulty controlling movement on one side of the body. Their speech, vision, swallowing and bowels can also be affected. The person’s emotions, ability to concentrate and memory may also change. Physiotherapists have a central role in helping people to regain independence. Rehabilitation programmes are designed to take into account the individuals lifestyle and home environment. Treatment may include guided movements of limbs, and relearning how to sit, stand, walk and other everyday activities. Movements are built up gradually and can take time to build up.
Scientists from more than 20 countries are currently in Brussels to seek funding for a trial of the ‘cooling brain’ technique for stroke patients. Researchers are hopeful that 1,500 people in 80 hospitals from 21 countries will take part in the proposed study.
We have a number of Chartered Physiotherapists who specialise in stroke rehabilitation in our Dublin, Cork and Galway clinics. For information on our stroke rehabilitation programmes click here or to contact one of our physios about your specific needs, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org