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Health Spotlight: Hope for recovery after a stroke

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Sometimes called a brain attack, an artery in the brain becomes blocked, or a blood vessel bursts, causing bleeding in the brain.

The faster doctors are able to treat a stroke, the better the patient’s chance at recovery, and researchers are now testing new screening methods that may predict how well a patient’s motor functions could recover.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Drs. Pooja Khatri and Achala Vagal, are leading the trials for this research, which uses two biomarkers to assess the patient’s chance for recovery.

“Our preliminary studies suggest that they’re very good at predicting who will recover strength, specifically in their arm,” Khatri said.

The trials include testing with transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS, which stimulates the nerve cells and muscles damaged by a stroke.

“If the hand moves, we’re measuring the impulse of the muscle. To see if we’re even seeing tiny muscle movements that tell us the brain is successfully talking to the hand, “Khatri said.

Additionally, the researchers use an MRI to screen the patient’s brain for lesions, which determines how much of the pathway between the patient’s brain and limbs is blocked.

Achala says they are interested in understanding where the stroke or dead brain tissue is located, and the trials are essential in learning how to harness the power of the brain to recover function after a stroke.

Researchers say patients will be recruited while they are still in the hospital, between 48 and 96 hours after their stroke. More than 650 patients at 30 hospitals across the country are being enrolled in the study.