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Trial bids to help region's stroke victims; Early treatment could prove vital.

Byline: Helen Rae

STROKE patients in the North East are set to benefit from a pioneering medical trial which could revolutionise the way paramedics treat the condition. Newcastle University's groundbreaking PIL-FAST study will enable paramedics to start life-saving drug treatment for stroke patients before they reach hospital, meaning they could get the vital clot-busting drug, thrombolysis, earlier than they would at present.

As many as 13 people a day in the region suffer a stroke and the quicker the patient is treated, the better outcome they are likely to have.

The study will run across the Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland as part of a collaboration between Newcastle University, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and the North East Ambulance Service.

Leading the project is Professor Gary Ford, director of the stroke research network at Newcastle University. He said: "This is an extremely exciting study which, if successful, could lead to a major change in the way people with stroke are treated and better outcomes for them and their families.

"It is vital for someone who has had a stroke that they are treated as quickly as possible to stop extensive and lasting damage being caused. With this new trial we are seeing whether ambulance paramedics can start treatment to reduce blood pressure before patients reach hospital. Lower blood pressure may reduce the extent of brain damage and allow clot busting drugs to be used more safely."

Paramedics from the North East Ambulance Service have received training to offer patients the chance to take part in the study during the response to their 999 call.

The project will concentrate on patients whose stroke symptoms started within three hours.

Previously, clot-busting drugs were administered by consultants once the patient was at hospital.

Grandfather-of-one Peter Elliott, 67, of Nedderton Village, Bedlington, Northumberland, suffered a stroke four months ago. While he has made an excellent recovery, others were not so fortunate.

The former company director said: "I'm one of the lucky ones. I do have some issues with my speech and I get tired easily, but I made a good recovery. "However, it could have been so much worse. On the ward I was on, I was the only patient who could look after themselves. The others had to be hoisted every time they needed to use the bathroom or get out of bed.

"Anything that could help prevent that kind of severe damage has to be a good thing. It is extremely important that those who've had a stroke get the treatment they need as quickly as possible."

Ann Fox, director of clinical care and patient safety at North East Ambulance Service, said: "We are delighted that our paramedics will be taking part in the first pre-hospital clinical trial in the North East.

"This clinical trial is a huge step forward for achieving our research vision: to become a leader for attracting, retaining and developing world-class research."

The study will run for one year and aims to recruit 60 patients. If successful it will be developed nationally to fully evaluate the effects of ultra-early blood pressure lowering treatment.

It is the first to be supported by the new North of Tyne Hyperacute Stroke Research Collaboration, one of only eight emergency stroke research col-


LUCKY Peter Elliott, seen here with his wife Ann, believes rapid treatment for strike victims is essential
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 29, 2010
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