BHF reports the latest statistics, that show the number of people dying of stroke in the UK remains high, despite more stroke patients making it to A&E. However, BHF researchers in Edinburgh & Nottingham are giving stroke survivors new hope.
The number of people going to Accident and Emergency following a stroke has increased by over 30 per cent since 2009, according to new estimates from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
In 2008/9 79,373 people went to A&E in England after having a stroke, by 2015/16 this number had increased to 104,426 people - peaking at 126,242 A&E visits in 2014/15.
Latest figures show that stroke now costs the UK’S healthcare system an estimated £1.93 billion. Previous research has estimated that stroke costs the UK around £9 billion a year as a society.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to become damaged or die.
The two most common types of stroke are ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke.
Ischaemic strokes happen when the artery that supplies blood to your brain is blocked, for example by a blood clot. Haemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into your brain, damaging brain tissue and starving some of your brain cells of blood and oxygen.
This year in the UK around 40,000 people will die after having had a stroke, whilst 1.2 million people are living with the cruel and debilitating after-effects of this devastating disease.
Although some exciting new developments have been made in stroke treatment, the options at our disposal for treating stroke patients are still far too limited.
We urgently need to fund more research to better understand what causes a stroke so that we can prevent them occurring and develop new treatments for all types of stroke, in order to save more lives.
The BHF, which is one of the largest independent funders of stroke research in the UK, says these increasing figures are the result of greater awareness of stroke symptoms, meaning that more people who’ve had a stroke make it to A&E. However, despite this, the number of people dying in the UK after suffering a stroke has remained stubbornly high - with numbers remaining largely unchanged in the last five years. The BHF warns that more research is urgently needed to find better ways to prevent and treat the disease. Only one drug, alteplase, is currently approved to treat stroke in the UK and for some types of stroke there is no proven treatment.
Currently, the BHF are funding 31 research projects worth £16.5 million pounds looking into the causes of stroke and looking to develop new treatments for those affected.
For example, BHF will fund LACI-2 in up to 20 Centres throughout the UK, conducting clinical trials of drugs they believe could offer a new treatment for lacunar stroke. This follows on from the nearly completed LACI-1 trial, funded by the Alzheimer's Society, where researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham were conducting research into lacunar stroke.
Lacunar stroke accounts for around one in five strokes and has no proven treatment. It is caused by damage to one of the small vessels deep within the brain that affects the flow of blood and can lead to long-term disability.
It’s very clear that lacunar strokes can cause strategic brain damage, affecting thinking ability, balance and the way people walk. With this in mind, there is a strong link between this type of stroke and dementia.
This trial is important as it’s one of the first looking into treatments for this particular type of stroke. Following treatment with these drugs, we’ll be monitoring how the blood vessels are changing and seeing if they improve the outcomes of patients that have suffered a lacunar stroke.