In the case of stroke, research currently under way includes work being done to better understand the impact of high blood pressure and other risk factors on a person's chances of having a stroke. Researchers are also studying the causes of stroke at a cellular level to find information that will help improve diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of stroke. Ongoing stroke research also includes an evaluation of constraint-induced movement therapy to improve motor function in stroke survivors.
An Overview of Stroke Research
Doctors and scientists are hard at work conducting stroke research. Research studies are designed to answer important questions and to find out whether new approaches are safe and effective. Stroke research already has led to many advances, and researchers continue to search for more effective methods for dealing with stroke.
Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the United States. The holy grail of medicine is a cure for stroke (along with heart disease). At this point, a stroke cure does not exist; however, stroke research scientists are studying a number of different aspects of stroke. Current areas of focus for stroke research include:
- Understanding the causes of stroke at a cellular level, with the hope that this will lead to improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of stroke.
- Studying stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and their impact on a person's risk for developing stroke.
- Making improvements in treatments for stroke and stroke prevention, including stenting a carotid artery or bypassing an artery in the brain. For example, the use of dilation and stenting techniques similar to those used to unclog and open heart arteries has been proposed as a less invasive alternative to carotid endarterectomy (a surgical procedure that opens and widens blocked carotid arteries on either side of the neck). Stroke researchers are currently comparing these two options.
- Looking at whether daily involvement and support of family, friends, and neighbors can improve the functional abilities of elderly stroke patients.
- Comparing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®) to aspirin in preventing recurrent strokes or other vascular-related events, such as a heart attack, in patients with clogged arteries in the brain (intracranial arterial stenosis).
- Evaluating constraint-induced movement therapy. Impaired movement in the arms and legs is a major consequence of stroke. In cases involving damage to the part of the brain that controls hand or arm movements, there are few effective therapeutic techniques for improving motor function and independent use of arms and hands. One technique that has been shown to be successful in basic research studies with animals is constraint-induced (CI) movement therapy (also called forced use). The CI technique involves restriction of the less affected arm, while the more affected arm is forced to perform repetitive motions.