A new UGA study suggests that commonly prescribed drugs used to lower blood pressure may help reduce brain damage when given within 24 hours of a stroke.
The finding, based on a study using rats and published in the April issue of the Journal of Hypertension, may ultimately revolutionize emergency stroke care by putting medications that lower blood pressure alongside clot-busting drugs and blood thinners as front-line treatments.
Susan Fagan, professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy at UGA’s College of Pharmacy and the Medical College of Georgia, was lead author for the study.
She and her team induced strokes in rats by occluding a major artery in the brain. After three hours, the suture was removed to simulate the effect of thrombolytic, or clot-busting, drugs. The rats were then given one of two common drugs that lower blood pressure or—for the control group—a saline solution.
When the researchers measured the amount of brain damage, they found the rats that had received the drugs that lowered blood pressure fared significantly better. While the control group showed damage in 50 percent of the brain, those receiving the drugs hydralazine and enalapril showed 30 percent damage.
Now that there is convincing evidence that lowering blood pressure can be beneficial after stroke, Fagan is working on a protocol for a human clinical trial that would identify what patient characteristics predict a good response to blood pressure lowering.
“There are probably some patients who can benefit a great deal by having their blood pressure lowered within that first 24 hours after a stroke,” Fagan said. “Our challenge now is identifying those patients.”