By: Dr. Nadav Bitton, Neurologist and Medical Director at BrainQ
Stroke, a devastating neurological condition, poses significant challenges in terms of effective treatment and management. While advancements have been made in the past twenty years, the existing solutions for stroke treatment are not as effective as desired. In this brief review, we will delve into the limitations of current approaches from a neurologist's standpoint, highlighting key factors that hinder their effectiveness.
Thrombolytic therapy (i.e. blood clots dissolution medication)is limited by a narrow treatment window of within 4.5 hours of stroke onset, pending on the patient's condition. The medication must be administered within a few hours of symptom onset. Unfortunately, delayed arrival at the hospital, as well as various contraindications to medication treatment, often leads to far fewer eligible patients for this treatment and missed treatment opportunities, thus significantly reducing the full potential of this intervention.
For patients with large vessel occlusion strokes, endovascular thrombectomy (i.e. mechanically removing the clot) is a crucial procedure. However, far fewer patients receive such treatment for 3 key factors - facilities, medical professionals, and patient-related factors.
For these reasons, many patients cannot benefit from this potentially life-saving treatment option.
Hemorrhagic strokes, characterized by bleeding within the brain, require a different approach to treatment. Controlling the bleeding often involves a combination of medical and surgical interventions, such as anticoagulation reversal agents, surgical procedures, or endovascular techniques. management often adopts a more conservative approach, which can increase the risk of long-term disability or even death.
Neuroprotective agents used in an attempt to save ischemic neurons in the brain from irreversible injury have long been anticipated as potential breakthroughs in stroke treatment. However, the translation of promising preclinical trial results to clinical efficacy has been a formidable challenge. Many neuroprotective drugs have failed to demonstrate significant benefits in human trials, leaving a gap in our ability to protect the brain from the damaging effects of stroke.
Due to the aforementioned limitations, research and development in the field of stroke treatment focus on expanding the therapy options, effectiveness, and accessibility. Novel therapies, including neurorestorative approaches and stem cell therapies, hold promise for improving outcomes. Additionally, imaging techniques and telemedicine advancements are already helping to extend treatment options to underserved areas. Advanced stimulation devices, such as BrainQ’s, hold a promise for a real chance for substantial recovery in the subacute and chronic phases.
As practicing neurologists, we must acknowledge the existing limitations in stroke treatment and management, despite ongoing advancements. The narrow treatment window for thrombolytic therapy, limited availability of endovascular thrombectomy, challenges in hemorrhagic stroke management, and the lack of effective neuroprotective agents are significant hurdles in making a real difference in how we treat stroke today.
Developing and embracing new therapies and technologies is the key to improving outcomes and enhancing patient access to time-sensitive interventions.