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UTHSCSA neurologists launch $37 million stroke study

Results could help doctors prevent the most common type of stroke in Mexican Americans

San Antonio (May 1, 2003) — Neurologists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) are spearheading a massive, nationwide study of small subcortical strokes. The results could yield new, preventative measures for the most common type of stroke in South Texas.

"Small subcortical strokes account for 27 percent to 30 percent of all ischemic strokes (strokes caused by inadequate blood supply to the brain) and occur most frequently in African and Mexican Americans," said Oscar Benavente, M.D., associate professor of neurology at the UTHSCSA and the study's principal investigator. "Roughly half the strokes in Mexican Americans in San Antonio are small subcortical strokes."

Dr. Benavente and Robert Hart, M.D., professor of neurology, received a $37 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to determine the best way to prevent small subcortical strokes. The study will enroll 2,500 patients with prior small subcortical strokes at 35 sites across the country, including 160 patients in San Antonio. At least 20 percent of the participants will be Hispanic.

"This type of stroke is not usually fatal, but recurrence is extremely high and it predisposes patients to dementia," Dr. Benavente said. "We know high blood pressure is the main cause of this type of stroke. But we don't know how much we should regulate it."

The five-year study combines blood pressure control with anti-clotting agents such as aspirin and clopidogrel. "Clopidogrel works like aspirin, preventing platelets from aggregating," Dr. Benavente said. "The hypothesis behind this study is that the combination of aspirin and clopidogrel, and a more 'intensive' blood pressure control, will be more effective at preventing further strokes and dementia."

"This is an important study," Dr. Hart added. "Our research indicates small subcortical strokes are the most common stroke subtype occurring in South Texas, so we naturally moved toward finding better preventative treatments. Nothing like this has been done before."

Interested individuals may call (210) 592-0404. The study will last five years.

Contact: Amanda Gallagher