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If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 immediately. Left untreated, a typical ischemic stroke (blood clot) patient loses 1.9 million brain cells (neurons), 14 billion brain cell connections (synapses) and 7.5 miles of nerve fiber each minute. Compared with the rate of neuron loss in normal brain aging, a stroke ages the brain 3.6 years each hour without treatment. These estimates by Jeffrey L. Saver, MD, of UCLA makes the phrase time is brain alarmingly urgent. (The warning signs are one or more of the following and occur suddenly: numbness or weakness, especially on one side; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache with no known cause).

Innovative research is being conducted at the Queen's Neuroscience Institute (NSI), such as a clinical trial on the use of Malayan pit viper venom for ischemic stroke. The Queen's NSI is one of 65 sites nationally to be a part of the study, called the Ancrod (ViprinexTM). If approved by the FDA, ViprinexTM will become the second clot busting drug. The first FDA approved clot-buster, tPA, is used regularly at Queen's. NSI medical director Cherylee Chang, MD, is the principal Queen's investigator of the pit viper venom, a natural anticoagulant that keeps blood flowing when the snake bites its prey. There's a lot of innovative research going on, said Dr. Chang.

Kristine O'Phelan, MD, of the Queen's NSI, recently participated in a study of a neuroprotectant designed to protect brain cells from free radicals and bad chemicals that cause cell death. Dr. Chang will soon be involved in a new study using low energy lasers to help mitochondria to survive better during a stroke. The laser will be used on 20 sites on a stroke patient's head. There will only be 20 lasers available worldwide.

New research aside, the first priority is to get a stroke patient to the ER. At Queen's, a Stroke Code activates a team of stroke specialists to determine the course of treatment. The Queen's Medical Center is in the forefront of stroke treatment with the only JCAHO certified Stroke Center in Hawai’i. The Queen's Stroke Center was one of 31 hospitals nationally to receive the Stroke Annual Performance Achievement Award from the American Stroke Association. The award recognizes commitment to a higher standard of stroke care to ensure patients receive nationally accepted treatment standards.

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