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Study suggests treating stroke patients for sleep apnea

Oct. 12, 2018—More than 780,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. New research suggests that treating some of these patients for sleep apnea could significantly improve their recovery. What's the science behind this surprising finding?

Making the connection

Researchers followed more than 250 patients recovering from a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a warning stroke.

Two-thirds of patients used CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) effectively to treat sleep apnea, a disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to long-term issues such as high blood pressure and heart problems. Patients who were treated for the condition with CPAP showed faster and better recovery from nervous system problems that affect functions like speech and movement.

Putting results into practice

The study's lead scientist highlighted two other findings. First, CPAP was more beneficial for stroke recovery than use of the FDA-approved drug TPA (tissue plasminogen activator). Second, the benefits were greater if treatment began immediately. CPAP also has an excellent safety record. It can be safely used in combination with other treatments.

Researchers' final recommendation was that all stroke and TIA patients should be tested for sleep apnea—the sooner, the better.

Source: Journal of the American Heart Association

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