Experimental stroke therapy could reduce size, damage by 50%

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 This Morning / Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Strokes are the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC.

Strokes can affect anyone and right now there is only one type of stroke therapy approved by the FDA. Researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University are trying to change that with a new experimental type of stroke therapy.

Right now TPA is the drug approved by the FDA for stroke therapy, but researchers say that doing something as simple as compressing your leg could help reduce the stroke size and damage by about 50 percent.

Robert Sapp, 60, had a stroke Tuesday morning.

"I got up and I couldn't breathe," he said. "I lost my equilibrium. Fell in the kitchen and my wife heard me."

He was able to get to the hospital near his home in Dublin, quickly receiving treatment from Dr. David Hess at GHSU through telestroke.

"They called me about 5 in the morning [and] I got on. We have a telestroke system that's Internet based so I went to my porch, saw him, saw his scan, talked to him and talked to the doctors and we gave TPA," said Dr. Hess, chairman of the Department of Neurology at GHSU.

TPA is the only approved stroke therapy but can only be used in specific cases within a specific amount of time.

"Less than 5 percent of people in the United States with stroke get TPA," Hess said.

So he is working on a new type of therapy using something as simple as a blood pressure cuff to compress the leg.

"This would be prolonged compression of the leg producing just a little bit of lack of blood flow to the muscle then repeat that four times, and at least in rodents and animals, that works really well," he said.

It's something that could be used anytime, anywhere.

"Most stroke care is delivered in hospitals that don't have a lot of infrastructure, don't have a lot of capability, so the nice thing about this is it's no drug, no pharmacies involved. Every hospital in the country has a blood pressure cuff," he explained.

Sapp says new stroke therapy's always a good thing because you never know when it could affect you.

"It's something that you don't really know it's gonna happen until it happens," said Sapp about five hours after his stroke.

In the research Hess has done on animals, leg compressions alone reduced stroke size and damage by 25 percent and when used with TPA it doubled, reducing it by 50 percent. He says these compressions could also be used in an ambulance, helicopter or wherever you have a blood pressure cuff available.

This is not yet an approved therapy for stroke victims, but they are looking to start a clinical trial soon. They would start by simply using the blood pressure cuff on stroke victims to see if the finding holds the same as it did in animals and then they'll go from there.

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