American Heart Association

Meet the Blogger: Jennifer Harris, MD

Name: Jennifer Harris, MD
Hometown: Berlin, Germany
Current Affiliation: Columbia University Medical Center

Q: What made you interested in a career in stroke?

A: It was a combination of factors. I was a psychology major in my undergraduate studies and became totally fascinated with behavioral neurology in medical school. During my neurology rotation, I was drawn to the acute care aspect of stroke neurology. I found stroke neurology especially clinically rewarding in light of the expanding treatment options available for stroke patients. It is breathtaking to await the next stroke trial that pushes the boundaries of innovation and treatment.

I also enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of stroke care, which allows me to work closely with emergency medicine, radiology, vascular surgery, neurosurgery, cardiology, rehabilitation medicine, and community services.

Lastly, I find it especially rewarding to take care of stroke patients. To go from normal to being unable to communicate, walk, or see half of the world in an instant is devastating. The passion that I developed for stroke care and the interest in improving outcomes stems from caring for stroke patients.

Q: What has been your career path into this field?

A: I had just finished my undergraduate studies in psychology when I started volunteering as a research assistant at an urban emergency medicine department in New York City. This sparked my interest in medicine, and I soon enrolled into a post-baccalaureate program. Two years later, I started medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago and eventually completed a neurology residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. With a research interest in health disparities, I am currently pursuing my stroke fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Q: Who is your stroke mentor or stroke hero?

A: My stroke hero is Olajide A. Williams, MD, who has dedicated his career to studying and eliminating disparities in stroke care.

Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to a trainee?

A: My advice for residents interested in a vascular neurology fellowship is that they express interest early on to the program director and staff members in the sub-specialty. In that way, they can support the trainee during residency and may also be able to put them in touch with others who might be able to help them.

Q: What is your favorite hobby or way of de-stressing?

A: My favorite pastimes include traveling and watching unsolved murder mysteries.

Q: What is your favorite place to travel to?

A: My favorite country to travel to is Spain, although I recently traveled to Morocco and absolutely loved it.

By |December 13th, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

Neurovascular Pathology in Newborns: A Short Review

Alejandro Fuerte, MD
@DrFuerte1

Newborn neurovascular diseases are common and are responsible for permanent disability. Early diagnosis and correct management are important to decrease the morbidity and mortality of these diseases. Studies are currently underway to advance this field and achieve more effective therapies.

Based on highlighted articles, below I present a short review of the most common perinatal neurovascular diseases.

  • Germinal matrix hemorrhage (GMH): The germinal matrix is vascular tissue. It rarely persists in newborns to term because it disappears by around 33 weeks. GMH is, therefore, more common in pre-term infants. Although it typically originates in the periventricular region, blood can invade the ventricular system. Risk factors include weight < 1.5 kg and gestational age < 34 weeks. The findings of transcranial Doppler ultrasound determine the severity of the hemorrhage. A study of bleeding diathesis should be included in the diagnosis. There is no treatment protocol, although some studies confirm that the administration of corticosteroids to the mother in situations of threatened pre-term birth reduces the incidence and mortality of GMH. Currently, the best strategy to reduce the incidence of GMH is the prevention of pre-term birth. As far as surgical treatment is concerned, ventricular lavage or ventriculostomy is usually performed. The prognosis is usually related to the severity of the hemorrhage and the appearance of complications such as periventricular leukomalacia (25-75% of cases) and hydrocephalus (11-30% of cases). For the treatment of hydrocephalus, CSF ventriculoperitoneal shunting is, in many cases, the best option, and it has been shown to improve long-term psychomotor development.
By |December 11th, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

ANS 2019 Sessions: “Injury to the Nervous System” and “Pathway to Success: Paving the Way for Translational Stroke Research”

The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society
December 2–5, 2019

Lin Kooi Ong, PhD
@DrLinOng

Rebecca Hood, PhD*
@Biohazard_Hood

The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Neuroscience Society was held December 2 to 5 in Adelaide. There were many high-quality and exciting sessions. We would like to highlight two key sessions that focused on stroke and brain injury.

The first session, “Injury to the Nervous System,” provided the audience a sample of the insights gleaned from various studies on injury to the nervous system. Dr. Shenpeng Zhang (La Trobe University) kicked off the session with a retrospective analysis of 5 years’ experimental stroke data from 716 mice to identify interrelationships between measures such as infarct volume, brain edema, functional outcomes and leukocytes.

Blood Pressure Control Improves Outcome in Spontaneous Intracerebral Hemorrhage

Ravinder-Jeet Singh, MBBS, DM

Moullaali TJ, Wang X, Martin RH, Shipes VB, Robinson TG, Chalmers J, et al. Blood pressure control and clinical outcomes in acute intracerebral haemorrhage: a preplanned pooled analysis of individual participant data. Lancet Neurol. 2019;18:857-864.

Approach to management of blood pressure during early hours after the onset of intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is heterogenous due to potential benefits vs. perceived risks of acute blood pressure lowering. The main rationale of acute blood pressure lowering is to reduce hematoma expansion, thereby, limiting early neurological deterioration and poor long-term outcome associated with hematoma expansion.1 Smaller hematoma expansion also leads to smaller final hematoma volume, therefore, lesser increase in absolute perihematomal edema and better outcomes.2 Conversely, acute blood pressure lowering might cause more cerebral insult by compromising perihematomal penumbra, a concept now widely debated.3 Aggressive blood pressure lowering is associated with systemic complications, especially remote ischemic cerebral lesions, which are associated with neurological deterioration4 and non-cerebral ischemia (especially cardiac ischemia and acute renal injury), worsening outcomes. Therefore, clinicians often face the questions “Where lies the right balance?” and “What’s the sweet spot of blood pressure target?” in an individual patient.

By |December 9th, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

Article Commentary: “Stroke Incidence and Case Fatality According to Rural or Urban Residence: Results From the French Brest Stroke Registry”

Kristina Shkirkova, BSc
@KShkirkova

Grimaud O, Lachkhem Y, Gao F, Padilla C, Bertin M, Nowak E, et al. Stroke Incidence and Case Fatality According to Rural or Urban Residence: Results From the French Brest Stroke Registry. Stroke. 2019;50:2661–2667.

In this entry, I discuss a recent publication by Olivier Grimaud and colleagues regarding the stroke incidence and case fatality according to rural or urban residence. Although rural-urban disparities in stroke epidemiology research have received modest attention in recent years, localization of most stroke registries in large urban areas confounds exploration of stroke mortality as a function of urban/rural area.

There has been conflicting evidence regarding the association between stroke incidence and rural or urban residence status. Recent data in the United States suggests that rural residence location is associated with higher incidence of stroke than urban location of residence. Similarly, results from other high-income countries also report conflicting data. The authors of this study sought to examine the relationship between stroke incidence, case fatality, and residence location using the French Brest Stroke Registry.

Article Commentary: “Contributions of Stepping Intensity and Variability to Mobility in Individuals Poststroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial”

Tamaya Van Criekinge, PT
@TamayaVC

Hornby TG, Henderson CE, Plawecki A, Lucas E, Lotter J, Holthus M, et al. Contributions of Stepping Intensity and Variability to Mobility in Individuals Poststroke: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Stroke. 2019;50:2492–2499.

Recovery of gait after stroke is considered one of the most important therapy goals for both patients and therapists, to assure independency and the ability to ambulate in the community. However, over 20% of stroke survivors do not reach independent walking, which necessitates the implementation of more intensive gait rehabilitation strategies. As Hornby et al. correctly state, rehabilitation staff are often too reserved, as they are scared of potential adverse effects, such as cardiovascular events and abnormal kinematic movements strategies.

In this study, Hornby and colleagues questioned if the benefits after high-intensity training in motor recovery outweigh the possible adverse events. In total, 97 chronic stroke patients were randomized in three groups: 1) High-intensity in high variable contexts (speed-dependent and skill-dependent multiple direction treadmill training, overground training and stair climbing at 70-80% of the heart rate reserve); 2) High-intensity with minimal variability (forward stepping treadmill and overground training at 70-80% of heart rate reserve); and 3) Low-intensity in high variable contexts (similar variable contexts as group one, yet performing exercises at 30-40% of heart rate reserve). Primary walking outcomes assessed were self-selected and fasted speed, single-limb stance and step-length asymmetry at self-selected and fasted speed, and six-minute walking test at fasted speed.

Tenecteplase: Making its Way to the Guidelines

Victor J. Del Brutto, MD
@vdelbrutto

Powers WJ, Rabinstein AA, Ackerson T, Adeoye OM, Bambakidis NC, Becker K, et al. Guidelines for the Early Management of Patients With Acute Ischemic Stroke: 2019 Update to the 2018 Guidelines for the Early Management of Acute Ischemic Stroke: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2019

Since the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke trial results were published in 1995, recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) alteplase has been the mainstay of thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke. Nevertheless, alteplase has a non-negligible risk of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, as well as limited efficacy in regards to the rate of vessel recanalization, especially in the setting of large vessel occlusion. For this reason, several studies have aimed to find an alternative thrombolytic agent with superior efficacy, safer profile, and simpler mode of administration. Tenecteplase, a genetically engineered mutant tPA, has several pharmacological advantages over alteplase, including higher fibrin specificity, less disruption of hemostasis, and longer half-life. This suggests that tenecteplase is a potentially better agent with higher rate of recanalization and lesser hemorrhagic complications. In addition, tenecteplase has a more practical way of administration (single bolus) in comparison to alteplase (bolus plus one-hour infusion).

In light of two recent large randomized controlled trials, tenecteplase has made its way into the American Heart Association guidelines. Initially, in the 2018 decree, tenecteplase debuted as a weak recommendation indicating that a 0.4 mg/kg single intravenous bolus might be considered as an alternative to alteplase in patients with minor deficits and no large vessel occlusion. The caveats of the aforementioned recommendation strictly adhered, in terms of dosing and selection criteria, to the NOR-TEST trial. This large (N=1100) phase III, randomized, open-label, double blind, superiority study compared tenecteplase to alteplase within 4.5 hours of symptoms onset using only CT for imaging selection. The authors reported no difference in functional outcome at 3 months and similar rate of hemorrhagic complications in both treatment groups. However, results were significantly affected by a high percentage of minor strokes and stroke mimics.

By |December 3rd, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

Which Medical Treatment After Ischemic Stroke and Patent Foramen Ovale? The Answer (and Questions) of a Meta-Analysis

Raffaele Ornello, MD

Sagris D, Georgiopoulos G, Perlepe K, Pateras K, Korompoki E, Makaritsis K, et al. Antithrombotic Treatment in Cryptogenic Stroke Patients With Patent Foramen Ovale: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Stroke. 2019;50:3135–3140.

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a relevant potential cause of cryptogenic ischemic stroke, especially in young people. After a cryptogenic ischemic stroke in patients with PFO, it is unclear whether to start an antiplatelet or an anticoagulant agent.

In this article, the authors performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to summarize the available evidence in the field and help orienting treatment. The authors found that anticoagulants were not superior to antiplatelets in the prevention of recurrent stroke in patients with cryptogenic stroke and PFO in the absence of different bleeding risk. However, the absolute effect sizes suggest a potentially larger preventive effect of anticoagulants over antiplatelets, warranting the feasibility of a large randomized controlled trial of non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants versus aspirin.

It should be noted that the trials included in the meta-analysis did not consider the effect of some clinical characteristics, such as the size of PFO and the risk of venous thrombosis and, consequently, paradoxical emboli. Before finding answers to the right medical therapy after cryptogenic stroke in the presence of PFO, we might have some further questions to ask ourselves.

By |December 2nd, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

Collateral Adequacy as a Predictor of Eventual DWI Lesion Volume in Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke Undergoing EVT

Piyush Ojha, MBBS, MD, DM

Yu I, Bang OY, Chung J-W, Kim Y-C, Choi E-H, Seo W-K, et al. Admission Diffusion-Weighted Imaging Lesion Volume in Patients With Large Vessel Occlusion Stroke and Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score of ≥6 Points: Serial Computed Tomography-Magnetic Resonance Imaging Collateral Measurements. Stroke. 2019;50:3115–3120.

In patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS) due to large vessel occlusion (LVO), infarct grows over time after arterial occlusion, the progression of which may be non-linear across individuals depending on the variations in the collateral blood flow capacity and the cerebral ischemic tolerance.

The pial collateral status, which can be assessed by conventional angiography, single-phase or multiphase CT angiography (mCTA), CT perfusion, and contrast-enhanced MRI, is a key determinant of the infarct volume and progression in patients with AIS due to LVO. In addition to a small core (ASPECTS ≥6 points on NCCT), pial collateral status can be used for guiding patient selection for EVT.

Inwu Yu et al. in this study hypothesized that the pial collateral status at the time of presentation could predict the infarct size on MRI in patients with similar degrees of early ischemic changes on CT and hence tested the association between serial changes in collateral status and infarct volume defined as DWI lesions in patients with LVO and small core. They also tested whether mCTA- and MRI-based collaterals are congruent over time during the hyperacute phase of stroke.

By |November 27th, 2019|clinical|0 Comments

Article Commentary: “One-Year Home-Time and Mortality After Thrombolysis Compared With Nontreated Patients in a Propensity-Matched Analysis”

Jennifer Harris, MD
@JenHarrisMD

Yu AYX, Fang J, Kapral MK. One-Year Home-Time and Mortality After Thrombolysis Compared With Nontreated Patients in a Propensity-Matched Analysis. Stroke. 2019;50:3488–3493.

Thrombolytic therapy with intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (r-tPA) is an effective treatment in acute ischemic stroke. Several studies have examined functional outcome and mortality at 3 months after intravenous r-tPA treatment. However, data on long-term outcome are limited. Two randomized controlled stroke trials, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke trial (NINDS) and the third International Stroke Trial (IST-3), have examined long-term mortality after intravenous r-tPA and revealed no differences in mortality rates among treated and nontreated patients at 12- and 18-months follow-up, respectively.

To explore long-term clinical outcome after intravenous r-tPA, Yu et al. conducted a nationwide register-based follow up study using a propensity score matching method. Using the Ontario Stroke Registry, they identified 29,036 patients with ischemic stroke and used propensity score methods to match the 4,449 patients treated with intravenous r-tPA to nontreated patients. The primary outcome was 1-year home-time, which was defined as the number of days spent outside of any healthcare institutions, and showed that compared with nontreated patients, those treated with intravenous r-tPA experienced a mean of 9.5 additional days at home in the first year. Now, while looking at these results from an individual patient perspective, this might seem like a rather small improvement; however, looking at the larger picture, it can mean significant cost savings for the healthcare system at large. With roughly 700,000 ischemic strokes occurring annually in the United States, and associated stroke care costs estimated at $34 billion each year, even a small increase in the rate of thrombolysis could potentially lead to reduced hospital stays and large costs savings.