Ultrasound spots warning signs of stroke

U. WARWICK (UK) — Ultrasound scans may be an effective way to identify patients at high risk of stroke and to deliver effective rescue medication.

Researchers used ultrasound to examine patients with carotid artery disease, one of the major causes of stroke.


Clots can form on diseased carotid arteries in the neck. Small parts of these clots can released to form microemboli, which can travel to block key brain arteries and lead to weakness, disturbed speech, loss of vision, and other serious stroke syndromes.

Standard anti-platelet drugs, such as aspirin, may not prevent the formation of harmful microemboli.

Using scanning, the team has found that tirofiban, another anti-platelet drug designed to inhibit the formation of blood clots, can suppress microemboli where previous treatment such as aspirin has been ineffective. In their study, published in the journal Stroke, tirofiban was more effective than other “rescue” treatment.

“These findings show that the choice of rescue medicine is very important when carotid patients develop microemboli despite previous treatment with powerful anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin,” says Donald Singer, a professor of therapeutics at the University of Warick Medical School.

“We now need to go on to further studies of anti-microemboli rescue treatments, to aim for the right balance between protection and risk for our patients.”

Chris Imray from University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), who collaborated on the study, says the findings “show the importance of ultrasound testing for micro-emboli in carotid disease patients. These biomarkers of high stroke risk cannot be predicted just from assessing the severity of risk factors such as smoking history, cholesterol, and blood pressure.”

Source: University of Warwick