Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Battle strokes with ultrasound?

Lately, we've seen news about better stroke outcomes. But there's still so much room for improvement. Now, check out this future-looking article from Popular Mechanics about ultrasounds and the fight against stroke:
To date, the most effective treatment is the clot-dissolving thrombolysis drug tissue plasminogen activator, tPA. But tPA is a far-from-perfect solution, says Andrew Barreto, a neurologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. “IV-tPA will help about 30 of 100 patients who receive it within the first 4.5 hours after stroke symptom onset,” Barreto says. “But, many patients are still disabled, so we need better treatments.”
Barreto and some of his colleagues think that ultrasound could be one of those treatments. Ultrasound has been a valuable tool for diagnosing and tracking strokes in the brain for years. Now, a wide variety of new technologies are making it possible for neurosurgeons to use ultrasound waves, which travel at frequencies too high for the human ear to pick up, to not only identify the signs of stroke such as blood clots in the brain but also to help treat them.
I was one of the fortunate who benefited from tPA - with minimal remaining effects of my stroke. It's great to hear that researchers are out there seeking more and better tools to battle strokes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Could warfarin temporarily raise stroke risks?

Warfarin might be phased out for many patients - maybe - with some unpleasant or worse side effects. And perhaps that is a good thing. From a few days ago, here's a snippet  of a story titled "Start Warfarin, Have a Stroke?":
Starting warfarin for preventing stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation appeared to be associated with a transiently increased risk of ischemic stroke before the preventive effects kicked in, a large case-control study showed.
Compared with not taking any antithrombotics, initiating warfarin was associated with a greater risk of ischemic stroke in the first 30 days ... , with a peak at 3 days, according to Samy Suissa, PhD, of McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues.
But after that, the well-known stroke-cutting effects were seen ... .
I've always been told that warfarin takes three days to take effect, which fits at least part of the story. Click on the story link to read more.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'The Lazarus effect'

[This was originally posted Dec. 24, 2009]
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Not long ago (2008), I heard a presentation by one of the doctors responsible for making tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) available to stroke patients.

In my own 1998 experience, I could not speak, I could not move my right arm or leg - but after the clot-busting tPA, I regained those abilities. It was a dramatic experience. The doctor called it "the Lazarus effect."

It made me think of the story of Lazarus - see above - in John's gospel. Once there was no hope. A man's sisters, relatives and friends knew they lost him. Jesus entered. Hope returned.

How about this world? On a cold night so long ago, a world needed this Lazarus effect. Today, this world needs it as well. On that first Christmas, God gave the world the Lazarus effect: a new beginning, a new covenant, a new life. Today, you can receive your own Lazarus effect.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

No closing times for strokes

Ever been in a hospital over a weekend? Hospitals are famous for making people show up before dawn during weekdays for a medical procedure so they can sit and wait for hours - and virtually shutting down on Saturdays and Sundays.

Now, from England, is a story on how an elderly man was turned away from King’s Mill Hospital because stroke unit shut at 6 p.m.:
Elderly stroke victim John Mallalieu was turned away by a Nottinghamshire hospital because it was too late on a Friday afternoon.
The ambulance carrying the 89-year-old from Caunton to King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield was diverted to City Hospital in Nottingham, where he remains in intensive care.
The incident was a timely reminder of the additional problems facing patients who need attention at weekends.
Did this patient choose to have a stroke so close to 6 p.m.? Certainly not.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'The word of our God endures forever'

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
It's cold with snow lingering in spots where I'm located at this writing, here in the middle of Missouri in December. Much of the grass has indeed withered, and flowers are gone.

Sounds like a bummer. Summer has vanished. Fall is almost complete. Winter is already here in spirit if not by the calendar. Not quite yet - still a couple of days away.

But this is not unexpected. I can read a calendar - for the next few months, I know that the grasses and flowers are waiting for spring. I know that outside, cold winds will blow. Our family pets will linger by the fireplace. No surprises there. The information imparted by a simple calendar, it seems, endures.

So much greater is the word of God. Study the word and know that it - and with it, God's love - endures.

(Photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with text added by author)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brain therapy might help stroke rehab

Stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States. So many people need physical, occupational and speech therapy to recover. I recently read about research that might lead to better tools to help stroke patients to recover.

This article describes how brain therapy helps rehabilitate stroke patients:
A new interventional therapy that uses a brain–computer interface appears to change brain activity in patients with stroke, new research has shown.
The therapy alters specific areas of the brain that correlate with both the affected and unaffected hands. The activation of these areas of the brain appears to correspond to executed and imagined tasks of the affected hand, and may represent neuroplastic recovery.
"Brain activity fed back to the patient is key for the therapy," explained Vivek Prabhakaran, MD, director of functional neuroimaging in radiology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
(Photo from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health) 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

600 blog postings - and, God willing, more to come

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
This is the 600th blog posting for Stroke of Faith, which began eight years ago this coming Saturday. Click here for the first posting.

For several years, the blog was updated only sporadically. Then, in 2008, I decided to either abandon the blog or update more often. So, since then, it's been updated generally two or three times a week.

I also recently re-read the verse in Psalm 46, and I think it makes a statement about one of the reasons for this blog:. When I needed help, God was my refuge. When I had no strength, God was my strength. And even to this day, when trouble invades, God is my ever-present help.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Still too high - but stroke deaths are falling

Even though stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States, stroke deaths have been declining.

Not to say that stroke rates are still too high - especially with the young. And strokes - often preventable - still claim too many lives.

Still, this article showed at least a glimmer of good news about how U.S. stroke deaths fell 30 percent over the past decade:
It is possible that the most important reason for the decline is the success in lowering Americans' blood pressure, which is the biggest stroke risk factor, he said. Other reasons for the decline may include reductions in smoking, improved cholesterol levels and better treatments for stroke patients.
"We don't know how much all of the sources are contributing," Howard said. "Certainly, we want it to keep going down. But if we don't understand why the numbers are decreasing, we can't work toward that trend."
Howard said the 30 percent decline in stroke deaths in the last 11 years is "a big deal, so you could argue that our battle is won. But I think [there's still] a lot to be accomplished in this area."
Yes. A lot remains to be accomplished.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Pot and stroke research and rats

This blog has seen postings about various research on preventing or treating strokes. I always try not to make rash promises about how something - coffee or chocolate or tea or bat spit (honest!) or snake venom - will prevent a stroke or treat a stroke.

So I was fascinated to read the many articles about how "stroke survivors" could be given cannabis to reduce brain damage:
The “exciting” research has been compiled by researchers at the University of Nottingham, who have pulled together research from around the world to suggest that ‘cannabinoids’ – chemicals related to those found in cannabis, some of which also occur naturally in the body – could reduce the size of stroke and improve neurological function.
The research – so far which has only been done on rats – indicates that all three classes of cannabinoid could be effective in shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke and in recovering neurological function.
I put "stroke survivors" in quotes because of the second paragraph's note that the research was done on rats - not people. So the "stroke survivors" so far have been rats.

Always watch out for stories that call research "exciting" when it's done on rats. Would cannabinoids work the same on humans? Nobody knows. Keep that in mind when you read about the weed. It'll be time to be excited when it works on people.

(Photo from the National Institutes of Health)