BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 00:12 GMT
Stroke test 'could save lives'
Blood test
Blood test could identify patients at risk
Doctors are developing a screening test to identify which stroke patients are at risk of potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

If these patients can be identified at an early stage, it may be possible to give them drugs that will reduce the risk of death or serious illness.

The development of DVT, or blood clots in the legs, is common in patients who have had a stroke. In most cases the clots dissolve in a few days.


Early detection and treatment of DVT may prevent deaths and improve the outlook in patients who survive stroke

Dr James Kelly, Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital
Sometimes, however, they can cause symptoms such as pain and swelling.

And in a minority of cases pieces of clot may dislodge and pass to the lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening condition known as pulmonary embolism (PE).

PE is responsible for up to 25% of early deaths among people who have had a stroke.

Clots can be treated effectively once they are diagnosed.

However, because the clot in the leg often causes no other symptoms, PE can be totally unexpected.

Early diagnosis

A team at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, led by Dr James Kelly, is working on a technique to identify patients who may be at risk early enough to give them treatment.

They believe it may be possible to identify such patients using a simple blood test which measures levels of a substance released from clots known as a D-dimer.

The test has proved helpful in the diagnosis of clots in other groups of patients.

However, it is currently unclear whether it would be useful in helping diagnose clots after stroke because stroke itself is thought to increase D-dimer levels.

Test accuracy

Dr Kelly's team, which has received a grant of 121,000 from the Stroke Association, will be using a new and powerful technique called magnetic resonance direct thrombus imaging to identify clots in stroke patients so that the accuracy of the test can be determined.

The technique will also provide valuable information on how common DVT and PE are after stroke, and how they behave once they occur.

For example, some types of clot may simply dissolve after a few days and not need treatment, whereas others may grow larger and pose a significant threat to the patient's life.

Stroke care

If the project is successful, checking D-dimer levels at intervals after a stroke to identify patients who may be developing DVT could become a standard part of stroke care.

Dr Kelly said: "Many DVTs are minor and would not require treatment, particularly as blood thinning drugs slightly increase the risk of bleeding into the damaged area of brain immediately after a stroke.

"However, patients with more extensive DVT, who are at much higher risk of pulmonary embolism, would be likely to benefit from such treatment.

"Early detection and treatment of DVT may prevent deaths and improve the outlook in patients who survive stroke."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

21 Oct 00 | Health
Cold remedy 'stroke risk'
30 May 00 | Health
Women 'unaware of stroke danger'
23 Oct 00 | C-D
Deep vein thrombosis
26 Oct 00 | A-B
Anti-coagulants
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories