Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 500,000 lives each year, and is the leading cause of disability.
In the desperate search for an effective and standard treatment for strokes, a group of UCLA physicians, led by Dr. John Frazee, are conducting a Food and Drug Administration clinical trial on what they call “back door” therapy.
The name of this newly discovered therapy is Neuroperfusion.
A stroke occurs when the brain is deprived of its vital blood supply due to a blockage in the arteries. As a result, this part of the brain dies, and the patient loses the ability to perform functions associated with the damaged part of the brain.
Strokes have been considered an untreatable affliction until a year ago, when the drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator was approved for clinical use by the FDA, Frazee said.
When administered intravenously, TPA clears blockages in the arteries that may be causing the stroke. However, this therapy is not perfect, Frazee said.
“This drug must be used within the first three hours (and) that’s hard to do because the population of patients and physicians are still poorly educated,” Frazee said.
Explaining that it is difficult for both doctors and members of the general population to recognize symptoms of a stroke, he also said many people still think that stroke is untreatable.
“The other issue with TPA is that it’s like Drano … it takes a period of time to dissolve the blood clot,” Frazee said.
However, there is the possibility TPA may not reach all the affected tissue. “The tissue beyond, which isn’t getting the oxygen and glucose that it needs, may continue to die,” Frazee said.
Until recently, strokes weren’t considered to be a medical emergency. However, Frazee said UCLA has always been at the forefront of stroke research and education for at-risk groups.
“Up until last year there was basically very little in the way of treatment for stroke,” Frazee said.
“We now have a procedure at UCLA, and only at UCLA, for treating acute stroke patients.”