Strokes That Occur During Sleep Prevent Patients from Getting Treatment

Approximately 14 percent of all strokes occur during sleep, preventing many from getting proper treatment, according to a new study.  This translates to about 58,000 people a year in the United States who suffer from “wake-up” strokes.

Ischemic strokes, which are caused by blocked blood flow to the brain, can only be treated by busting up the clot.  However, the treatment must given within a few hours after the first symptoms occur.

Therefore, people who suffer a stroke during sleep and wake up with stroke symptoms often cannot receive treatment because doctors are unable to determine when the symptoms started, according to study author Jason Mackey, MD, of the University of Cincinnati and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

Mackey reports that imaging studies are now being conducted to help develop better methods to identify which people are most likely to benefit from the treatment, even if symptoms started during the night.

There are no apparent differences between those who suffer from wake-up strokes in comparison to normal strokes in terms of sex, whether they were married or were living with someone, and their stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking or high cholesterol.

Of the number of people who suffer from wake-up strokes, about a 1/3 would be eligible for treatment.

“This is a group of patients that should be a focus for future studies,” Mackey said. “It’s likely that some of these strokes occurred immediately prior to awakening, and people would benefit from treatment.”

The study was published in the journal Neurology.