A GROUND-BREAKING Australian trial is providing new hope for stroke patients.
The EXTEND trial found blood clot-dissolving treatment (thrombolysis) could be beneficial for stroke patients up to nine hours after symptom onset.
Previously, the treatment has only been effective when given within 4.5 hours of symptom onset.
The trial used advanced brain imaging to identify individuals beyond this time window who have brain tissue that could be saved by restoring blood flow.
Welcoming the trial, Stroke Foundation Clinical Council chairman Bruce Campbell said this extension would greatly benefit patients who would have otherwise missed the window for treatment, especially those far from a stroke specialist.
"Stroke is a time critical-medical emergency. Time saved in accessing stroke treatment equals brain saved, however not all Australians currently have access to stroke specialists being able to diagnose and treat their stroke,'' Professor Campbell said.
"This is a particular issue for regional and rural Australians.
"This time extension, coupled with greater awareness of stroke and its signs, and telemedicine, will open this lifesaving treatment up to thousands of regional Australians giving them every opportunity to survive and live well after stroke."
The EXTEND-IA TNK randomised trial was led by The Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne and involved 13 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand. It built on the EXTEND-IA trial, concluded in 2015.
Before the recent federal election the foundation called for establishment of an Australian Telestroke Network together with F.A.S.T. community education.
Stroke Foundation chief executive Sharon McGowan said the outcomes of the trial further strengthened the case for an network, as part of a more equitable and sustainable health system.
"Innovations in stroke treatment mean more people can survive stroke than ever before. Now we must ensure all Australians have the opportunity to benefit from these advancements," she said.
"This breakthrough could be a life changer for many stroke patients, improving their outcomes and allowing them to return to their family life, jobs and the activities they love."
In addition to benefiting regional Australians, extending the window for clot-dissolving treatment has the potential to benefit the one in five people who suffer a wake-up stroke - that is, have a stroke while sleeping so are unaware when their symptoms started.