Could Brain Lesions Signal Another Stroke?

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In another medical discovery on ischemic strokes, researchers have found that patients who have already experienced this deadly condition may be predisposed to having future episodes. How did the researchers come to this conclusion? By looking at brain lesions that become present in a patient within three months of an initial ischemic stroke occurring.

 Before we get into the study, let’s look at what an ischemic stroke is, exactly. For starters, this deadly form of stroke is responsible for 83% of all cases of the condition. It occurs when a blood vessel is clogged and then ruptures, causing blood to leak out of it and into the brain. The vessel that becomes blocked supplies blood to the brain, which is what can cause this form of stroke to be so deadly. Fatty deposits that have developed along the lining of the vessel’s walls usually cause the blockage.

 The obstruction, which is better known as atherosclerosis, causes two types of scenarios: 1) cerebral thrombosis, which causes a blood clot that clogs a vessel leading to or in the brain; and 2) cerebral embolism, which is a blood clot that occurs in another area of the circulatory system such as the heart or in large arteries in the neck and upper chest. Cerebral embolism occurs when a portion of the clot breaks free and enters the bloodstream, then travels up to the brain’s blood vessels, inevitably causing a blockage and subsequent stroke.

 To say the very least, and ischemic stroke is a very serious condition that is often fatal. So, if doctors can help predict any future episodes in survivors, it’s needless to say that it is a great development. Enter the new study: by using MRI scans, researchers found that they could analyze the brain lesions left behind after an initial ischemic stroke in a patient, and thus determine if he/she is potentially facing any future events.

 In previous studies, researchers found that “asymptomatic” (also known as ‘silent’) brain lesions occur in a stroke victim’s brain after an event occurs. These lesions occur at the sites where blood flow was blocked or reduced in the brain. These types of lesions usually occur about three months after the ischemic stroke takes place, which makes them a sort of hazard marker that doctors can analyze with the help of an MRI scan, thus allowing them to determine if a future event may occur.

 The study, which took place at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and was published in the medical journal Archives of Neurology, looked at 120 ischemic stroke patients who had undergone an MRI scan within 24 hours of the event happening and five days after. Along with the first two initial MRI scans, 68 of the participants also underwent subsequent scans at the 30- and 90-day mark.

 The result? Researchers found that the patients who had silent ischemic lesions show up on either the 30-day or 90- day MRI scan were about 6.5 times more likely to experience a future episode. Also, those patients who had an MRI scan done 24 hours, five days, 30 days, or 90 days after the stroke were also more likely to die from a vascular disease.

 While these findings may sound foreboding, they should certainly motivate you to speak to your doctor about preventive measures you can take if you have suffered from an ischemic stroke. As always, the old adage applies: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.