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Hypothermia "helps stroke victims"

Hypothermia should be induced in stroke victims to prevent death or disability, according to new research.

A consortium of medics believes that cooling the brain could help around 40,000 stroke victims every year and has called for a Europe-wide trial of the treatment.

Hypothermia, which acts by stimulating a kind of hibernation in the brain, is already used to reduce damage following cardiac arrest and birth injuries.

It reduces the need for oxygen and prevents further brain injuries by giving doctors longer to treat blocked or burst blood vessels.

Researchers are hopeful that 1,500 people in 80 hospitals from 21 countries will take part in the proposed study.

Dr Malcolm Macleod, Head of Experimental Neuroscience at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, led the latest research.

He said: "Every day 1,000 Europeans die from stroke - that's one every 90 seconds - and about twice that number survive but are disabled.

"Our estimates are that hypothermia might improve the outcome for more than 40,000 Europeans every year."

The European research project, which would also include hospitals in the UK, is being led by Professor Dr Stefan Schwab, Chair of the neurology department at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany.

Dr Schwab said: "We know the financial situation is difficult but based on current evidence, the personal and economic benefits of avoiding stroke-related death and disability means that the trial would pay for itself in less than a year.

"As the population ages, this trial will become even more important, and a benefit of cooling demonstrated in the proposed study will set the stage for future studies with hypothermia, extending the eligibility of the treatment to even greater number of patients."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh