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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 01:31 GMT
Skin patch could help stroke care
Skin patch
A skin patch could help stroke patients
A skin patch used to lower blood pressure could help people who have suffered a stroke.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham say the treatment could be particularly beneficial to patients who cannot swallow.

Around 140,000 people have a stroke each year in the UK - around 40% of whom have problems swallowing.

The team will conduct trials around the world, using the internet to collate data.

Relaxing blood vessels

An estimated 80% of stroke patients have high blood pressure, which can increase their risk of suffering another stroke.

The skin patch, usually used on people with severe angina, can help to lower blood pressure by releasing nitric oxide into the body.

Nitric oxide works by relaxing blood vessels and making them bigger.

Professor Philip Bath, lead researcher, said they are hoping the patch will help the vessels in the brain and improve blood flow.

A method to administer preventative treatment against further strokes via a patch could have significant advantages for stroke patients
Dr Joanne Knight, Stroke Association
Previous studies on animals have shown nitric oxide can reduce the size and damage of a stroke if administered soon after it occurs.

The team have already conducted two pilot studies involving 127 stroke patients. Results so far show that the patch worked to lower blood pressure.

Controversy

However Professor Bath admitted it is possible that lowering blood pressure in stroke patients could have detrimental effects.

He said having a stroke temporarily destroys the mechanism that controls blood flow in the brain.

"It is possible that stroke patients need high blood pressure to maintain blood flow. Lowering it might make things worse."

Dr Joanne Knight, of the UK Stroke Association welcomed the research.

"A method to administer preventative treatment against further strokes via a patch could have significant advantages for stroke patients," she told BBC News Online.

Dr Bath and colleagues are set to commence a two year trial of the patch, involving around 500 patients worldwide.

Teams stationed in different countries will use the Internet to report results.

The study is being funded by the BUPA Foundation.




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