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Six amazing stroke innovations

These studies could change how we recover from stroke.
Scientist using a microscope

iPads that deliver speech therapy, a simple way to boost blood flow to a recovering brain, and maps that pinpoint population access to stroke centres are just some of the standout research advances highlighted at this year’s Canadian Stroke Congress.

The Congress was attended by more than 800 health professionals and leading experts in Toronto this Sept. 17-19.

The year’s top achievements were selected by the Congress co-chairs, Dr. Mark Bayley and Dr. Robert Côté, for special recognition. Here are their picks.

Impact Award: A study presented by Dr. Jennifer Semrau and led by Dr. Sean Dukelow of the University of Calgary used robotic technology to measure stroke recovery. Robotic technology provides a more complete picture of motor function and sensation in stroke-affected limbs than is possible with the usual clinical tests.

Results of the study, which was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, suggest that stroke recovery may take longer than previously thought, and could be improved by more sensitive assessment of each patient’s specific deficits.

Innovation Award: The cause of about a quarter of strokes in North America and Europe – about 300,000 each year – is unexplained. Evidence shows that most of these strokes involve blood clots that originate either in the heart or in the blood vessels of the neck. Previous research has identified several potential risk factors for these strokes, known as embolic strokes of undetermined source (ESUS).

Dr. Kanjana Sashi Perera and her colleagues at McMaster University have clarified the picture by screening stroke patients in 19 countries. The overwhelming majority had at least one potential minor risk factor. Better understanding of the prevalence of these factors could help identify at-risk people and prevent recurrent strokes by way of better treatment options.

Other studies presented at the Congress include:

Exercise and the brain: A study that shows aerobic exercise can increase blood flow to the brain in stroke survivors points to exciting potential for regaining brain function after stroke.

Stroke mapping 9-1-1: A new study maps out exactly how far Canadians across the country live from emergency stroke centres – and what this means for getting them the care they need in the first crucial hours after stroke.

Not your grandfather’s stroke. This study takes a closer look at memory impairment and depression experienced by young and older stroke survivors. Better understanding could lead to improved treatments.

Hand-held iRecover tablets for recovery. A fully loaded hand-held tablet, with apps to assess communication skills and deliver speech therapy at the bedside, could change how we recover from stroke. The tool collects data and provides therapists with feedback on a patient’s progress. This technology sets the stage for apps that would allow therapists to remotely monitor a patient’s advances and the creation of customized programs. 

For more information on the Canadian Stroke Congress, visit strokecongress.ca.