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Advances in Brain Assessment Improve Care for Stroke Victims
Paulson & Nace
(202) 463-1999

Currently, brain scans are used to show doctors if a stroke has occurred in a patient. However, a new computer program in development will be able to tell doctors just how healthy a brain is after a stroke. The predictive software is a joint effort by British researchers at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences and the Stroke Association in the UK, and it may expand a doctor’s ability to accurately treat and identify problems after a stroke—allowing for better long-term rehabilitation and results.

Up to ten times more accurate than current methods, the program translates bits of information stored in brain scans into a single measure called the “brain health index.” The electronic pictures provided by the software also contain information on whether the person is more likely to suffer from dementia or cognitive problems in the future. The program brings these two pieces together, allowing for a full picture of the brain’s state of health and atrophy.

Although this software is not yet in clinicians’ hands, it offers a welcomed breakthrough in post stroke care—until now, suffering a stroke meant an untimely dive into numerous unknowns as the patient progressed down the long road of recovery.

A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or ruptures. This short-term loss of oxygen to the brain is catastrophic to its functioning and can, in the most severe cases, lead to permanent disability or death. In the US, strokes affect people from every walk of life and kill more than 133,000 people annually according to the American Heart Association.

While current medical opinion states there is only a window of six hours before the patient may incur irreversible brain damage that could lead to paralysis and/or impaired physical and mental functioning, there has been recent research and a reliance on advanced brain imaging technology that extends the timeframe to 16 hours when a clot can be removed and thus avoid future complications.

Yet, time is still of the essence and there is often little to no indication of trouble leading up to a stroke. They can occur anywhere, anytime—making it doubly critical that everyone recognize the warning signs. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, you should seek immediate medical care if you or a family member experiences the following:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


Remember too that most stroke victims do not die. Millions live with debilitating impairments and up to 30 percent are permanently disabled. These individuals will need care for the rest of their lives—much of which falls on their loved ones at home.

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