Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Elul 5759 - September 8, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Don't Ignore Stroke Warning Signs
by N. Katzin

Cerebral stroke, which shows itself as a local neurological deficiency, sends warnings which must not be ignored. They are: sudden weakness of half of the body or a hand or a foot; a sudden speech disturbance which passes after a number of minutes (the mouth contorts); a sudden, brief disturbance in the vision of one eye, sudden headaches; a feeling of numbness in half of one's body or face or sudden dizziness accompanied by double vision for a few moments.

What is common to all of these warning sings is that they occur suddenly and in specific points or areas of the body.

When these symptoms occur, one must immediately consult a doctor and describe the symptoms. If necessary, the doctor will refer the patient for further examination and treatment.

Today it is possible to identify an occurrence of cerebral stroke by means of reliable noninvasive simulation tests. In addition, Doppler or Ultrasound tests on the neck and heart arteries identify the source of the blood clots which are causing the stroke. The test results enable the administration of suitable treatment: surgical or therapeutic. People in the high risk group, such as those who suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart rate disturbances, would most probably receive preventive treatment which reduces the risk of cerebral stroke. Among those medicines are Pharbestetin for the reduction of cholesterol, or anti-coagulants such as aspirin and Comadine.

Clinical Trials for New Stroke Medication

A new medicine for victims of cerebral strokes is currently undergoing clinical trials in medical centers in the United Sates, Europe and Israel. The experimental medicine, developed by Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, will hopefully curb the chain of events caused by stroke and prevent damage to brain cells of its victims.

Dr. Natan Borenstein, Director of the Brain Blood Vessel Department of the Ichilov Medical Center who is coordinating the first Israel trial, stresses that time is a crucial factor in the treatment of cerebral stroke. Improvements are possible during the six hours following a stroke. After that, damage is irrevocable.

"Sadly, there is a lack of awareness of the crucial importance of reaching the hospital as quickly as possible in the case of stroke. Unlike suspected heart attacks, which cause people to rush to the emergency room, most people prefer to ignore or to deny the warning signs of cerebral stroke and wait until the symptoms pass. Treating the stroke as soon as possible can limit damage to the brain cells," Dr. Borenstein told Yated Ne'eman.

Treatment of a blood vessel clot can be effected by dissolving the thrombosis -- a treatment which is not yet practical in most cases -- or by stopping the sequence of strokes in the brain cells: a concept called "neuro- protection." Until now, all attempts to develop an effective medicine have failed. According to Dr. Borenstein, the new medicine now undergoing clinical trial inhibits one of the processes which cause cell death. The medicine must be given within six hours from the onset of the stroke.

Cerebral stroke is the third most frequent cause of death in the Western world, following heart disease and cancer. It is the main cause of disability among the elderly. Fifteen to twenty per cent of stroke victims die within a month; a third within the first year after the stroke. 90% of those who suffer from stroke are people over 65. From 55 and up, the risk of suffering a stroke doubles with each ten year span.

Cerebral stroke is caused either by a rupture of brain blood vessels or -- in most cases -- by a clot in the brain's blood vessels. The clot causes a chain of strokes and, at the end of the process, the brain cells which have not received blood supply are either severely damaged or die. This, then, causes functional disturbances in the particular parts of the body that these cells control.

Dr. Borenstein notes that the clinical study will include 1600 patients, and is being conducted in the Ichilov, Hadassah, Wolfson and Tel Hashomer hospitals. A patient arriving in time at one of the participating hospitals will be able to be included in the experiment if he suits the treatment protocol.


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