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Hunter home to vital stroke research after $268k funding

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A major financial windfall will enable local clinical researchers to gain deeper understanding about treating stroke patients more effectively.

Cerebrovascular accidents are the second highest cause of death globally, as well as the number one source of adult disability.

But, thanks to $268,176 in funding from the Greater Charitable Foundation, scholars from John Hunter Hospital, the Hunter Medical Research Foundation (HMRI) and University of Newcastle (UoN) can launch a study into the cardiac origins of stroke.

Researchers Dr Carlos Garcia-Esperon, Professor Chris Levi and Professor Neil Spratt will assess the effectiveness of undertaking a CT scan of the heart at the same time as other diagnostic scans.

“If a clot is found in the heart during this process, a different type of blood thinning medication will be given to the patient to reduce the risk of secondary stroke,” the latter said.

“Correctly identifying those with a cardiac cause for their stroke presents a major opportunity to reduce secondary stroke.

“Recent imaging advances now make this a realistic prospect.

“Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is an emerging and promising technique, which we and some international collaborators have begun to use as part of the immediate testing of stroke patients.

“The big advantages are that it is a relatively small add-on to the CT imaging of the brain and neck vessels that we already do… and we can be do it while the patient is already on the scanner.

“It provides an immediate result, rather than having to wait days or more for additional follow up investigations, for example, with ultrasound (echocardiography).

“Finally, early results indicate that by scanning very early, we are much, much more likely to identify patients with a blood clot in their heart, indicating the likely source of their stroke (7.1% versus 0.6% using standard, delayed echocardiography, in one study).

“Because the diagnosis of clot in the heart was so rare before we started performing routine hyperacute cardiac CT, there are no guidelines of what treatment should be used immediately, or when treatment should start (to prevent growth of the clot, but also avoid bleeding into the brain, which has been freshly damaged by stroke).

“This study will form the basis for development of treatment guidelines to be used globally,” Professor Spratt summed up.

CEO Anne Long said the Greater Charitable Foundation was keen to continue its relationship with the HMRI, too.

“Our funding has been instrumental in some key advances in stroke patient care,” she explained.

“The effects of stroke can be devastating for a person and their loved ones, be it physical, financial and emotional.

“About one-in-four people who have had a stroke will have another.

“So, this research will be key to achieving a deeper grasp of the cardiac causes of stroke, to be able to treat patients more effectively and reduce the chances of additional strokes.

“HMRI’s research plays such an important role in supporting the health of our community, which is why we have proudly partnered with the institute for more than two decades.”

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