Preventing Disability From Stroke

Long-term disabilities caused by stroke will rise 80 per cent over the next 20 years as the Canadian population ages and grows, according to a press release from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  Even with leaps forward in treating stroke, much more needs to be done in prevention and education to head off the projected growth in stroke disability rates.

According to the Ontario Stroke Network, approximately 405,000 Canadians were living with long-term disabilities as a result of stroke in 2013.  By 2038, that number is projected to rise to between 654,000 to 726,000.

The good news is that researchers are working to develop protocols that will treat stroke before damage can become long-term.  Stroke can deprive brain cells of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in damage.  It is one of the two leading causes of vascular dementia, a fact that is not widely recognized, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

By acknowledging the symptoms quickly and seeking medical attention immediately, symptoms and disability resulting from stroke can be significantly minimized.   The results of a clinical trial, dubbed ESCAPE (Endovascular treatment for Small Core and Anterior circulation Proximal occlusion with Emphasis on minimizing CT to recanalization times) was published the February 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.  The study found a 50 per cent reduction in the death rate of patients as a result of the ESCAPE procedure.

More than 300 people diagnosed with Ischemic Stroke, ( in which a large artery to the brain is blocked by a blood clot) participated in the study and were treated with Endovascular Thrombectomy or ET.  The procedure feeds a thin tube through an artery, guided by x-ray imaging, to the site of the clot where it is removed through a stent.  By making this procedure a Best Practice among health care practitioners, it is hoped that brain damage resulting from stroke, the leading cause of death a disability among adults, can be drastically reduced.

FAST – Sign of Stroke

Face – is it drooping?
Arms – can you raise both?
Speech – is it slurred or jumbled?
Time – call 911 immediately if these signs are present

An estimated 62,000 strokes occur across Canada each year and at least 300,000 people, with possibly many more unrecognized cases, are living with some disability as a result of stroke.