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Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Local paramedics will administer a nerve cell-protecting agent to stroke victims before taking them to hospitals as part of a groundbreaking study.

Magnesium sulfate, a naturally occurring substance, dilates blood vessels in the brain and prevents calcium buildups in damaged nerve cells, possibly limiting the injury strokes can cause to victims' ability to talk, walk and perform other functions - if administered quickly.

``It's a generic, it's not patentable, so it's cheap,'' said Suzanne McCall, clinical site nurse coordinator for Antelope Valley Hospital and local fire stations. ``It's not a pharmaceutical study, so no big drug company is behind it. It's simply researchers working on something to help stroke patients. It's the first stroke study where we are treating patients in the field.''

Paramedics from Antelope Valley's Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalions 11 and 17 have been trained in recognizing stroke and in the study's procedures. They will administer the magnesium sulfate drug intravenously.

``We like doing new things,'' Fire Capt. Daniel Rodriguez said. ``We do like expanding our scope of practice because we are in business to save lives. The more we can do, the more 'toys' we have, the more tools in the box, the more benefits to the public we are saving.''

The Field Administration of Stroke Therapy - Magnesium Sulfate clinical research trial will involve nearly 70 hospitals in Los Angeles County under a $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Antelope Valley Hospital was among the first to sign up and organizers are working to get Lancaster Community Hospital to take part.

Half the patients will receive the magnesium sulfate and half will receive a placebo.

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death and the primary cause of adult disability in the U.S. Each year, 750,000 Americans suffer a symptomatic stroke.

Clinical investigators, based at University of California, Los Angeles, want to see if magnesium sulfate can protect the threatened brain when administered to stroke victims by paramedics within the first two hours of the onset of stroke.

``This magnesium might be neuroprotective so it might help patients who are experiencing potential neurological injury due to the fact that the nerves, the neurons are not getting enough oxygen,'' said Dr. John Lynn, Antelope Valley Hospital's emergency department medical director and principal investigator for the study for the hospital. ``Magnesium might have a protective role to play in this process, to keep more of the neurological cells alive during a stroke.''

Participating will help improve AVH's relationship with Dr. Sidney Starkman, the study's co-principal investigator, and the stroke center he runs at UCLA, officials said.

``If we have complex stroke patients who come to the emergency room, we will have access to Dr. Starkman's expertise and stroke unit, which is one of the best in the world,'' Lynn said.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 9, 2005

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