Clot-busting stroke drug aids recovery

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Stroke victims given a clot-busting drug after an attack recover better than those who do not receive the treatment, according to the world’s biggest trial of the medicine.

More than 3,000 patients worldwide took part in the trial of rt-PA, given intravenously to patients who have had acute ischaemic stroke which occurs when an artery that carries blood to the brain is blocked.

The damage can be permanent or fatal, with problems including paralysis down one side of the body and speech problems.

The international trial, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that following treatment with the drug, more stroke survivors were able to look after themselves.

A patient’s chances of completely recovering within six months of a stroke were also increased.

For every 1,000 patients given rt-PA within three hours of stroke, 80 more will survive and live without help from others than if they had not been given the drug, according to the research.

But patients are also at risk of death within seven days of treatment because the drug can cause a secondary bleed in the brain.

Without treatment with rt-PA, one-third of people who have a stroke die and another third are left permanently dependent and disabled.

For those who do not experience bleeding, the drug improves patients’ longer-term recovery.

Researchers said the trial shows the benefits of treating patients with the drug as soon as possible.