College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Boost for brain scan study

Stroke patients will be helped by new funding to test the effectiveness of using brain scans to diagnose their condition.

University researchers are to investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of brain imagining in patients who have suffered a mini stroke - or transient ischaemic attack.

Stroke is a common disease and is fatal in a third of cases.

Half of those who survive need help from carers for daily activities as a result of their condition.

However, every year 80,000 people have a warning "mini stroke" and, if they can get to hospital quickly, it is possible to prevent a second, more damaging, episode

Changing practice

A doctor usually cannot tell what the symptoms are just by examining the patient and a brain scan is needed.

There are two types of scans available.

Computerised tomography scan (CT) is currently the standard scan given.

It is the less expensive of the two and more widely available, but it is not very accurate at picking up the commonest type of mini strokes.

The other type of scan, magnetic resonance diffusion imaging (MR DWI) is newer, more expensive and good at showing mini strokes, but it is not generally available for this group of people.

The study, to be conducted by the SINAPSE Collaboration and led by the University, will help decide which method is more effective at diagnosing mini stroke.

It will also determine whether it could potentially prevent people from suffering a more severe stroke.

The study will also identify the costs of using MR DWI over CT.

Over 80,000 people have mini strokes every year in the UK, and current research about the best way to diagnose them hasn’t given us a clear picture of their effectiveness. More MR DWI may be the right way to diagnose mini stroke, but it would be better to have good evidence to support this potentially expensive strategy.

Professor Joanna WardlawProfessor of Applied Neuroimaging