May is annual stroke awareness month which encourages the public to show their support for those who have been affected by stroke. Across the UK more than a million people are rebuilding their lives after stroke and the number affected is set to rise. On the plus side, there is ongoing extensive research into treatment. Recently, there have been two notable developments.
In April 2017 NHS England announced its intention to expand the use of a new treatment for stroke victims. The treatment, known as a ‘mechanical thrombectomy’, involves the mechanical removal of a blood clot in the stroke patient’s brain. Since then there has also been substantial publicity about a skin patch costing less than 40p that can double the chances of surviving a stroke.
Researchers have found that the patch, which is the size of a 50p piece, notably increases the chances of survival if it is applied within hours of the stroke. The patch contains glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), which lowers blood pressure and opens up blood vessels, helping reduce the damage caused in the immediate minutes and hours following a stroke.
The trial has been conducted by the University of Nottingham and involved 40 randomised patients. It found that administering the patch to a patient’s shoulder or back while they were travelling to hospital halved the stroke death rate from 38% to 16%. These positive results have provided justification for a larger study, which is to be funded by the British Heart Foundation.
The study, known as the “rapid intervention” trial, will involve 850 patients, seven ambulance services and 47 NHS hospitals. It will include the use of either a medication patch or a placebo patch in ambulances and at patients’ homes once the signs of stroke are noticed. The results will enable researchers to decide if the treatment should be rolled out to patients across the country and internationally.
Elise Bevan, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “According to the Stroke Association, approximately 152,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the UK and one third of those die within 12 months. The cost to the NHS and social care system is estimated at £2 billion a year in England. Half of the survivors have paralysis, speech problems, personality changes and other disabilities.
“A stroke occurs when a clot blocks an artery or there is bleeding in the brain, reducing blood flow. Rapid treatment to restore blood supply to the brain is crucial. Any delay in the critical first few hours after a stroke can have a devastating effect, increasing the likelihood of the patient being permanently disabled or dying. This trial uses a patch that can be applied by paramedics as soon as they reach the patient. It is simple, cheap and potentially very effective. If successful, this could revolutionise treatment for stroke patients.”