Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have said that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins may help may help restore blood flow after a stroke.
The research involved 31 patients with ischemic stroke, a disorder when a clot blocks blood flow to part of the brain.
In 12 patients who were already taking statins to control their cholesterol, blood flow returned to the blocked areas of the brain more completely and quickly.
"We've known that patients on statins have better stroke outcomes, but the data in this study suggest a new reason why: Statins may help improve blood flow to brain regions at risk of dying during ischemic stroke," said senior author Jin-Moo Lee, director of the cerebrovascular disease section in the Department of Neurology.
"If that turns out to be the case, we may want to consider adding statins to the clot-busting drugs we normally give to acute stroke patients," he said.
The team first established that patients were having an ischemic stroke and treated them with a clot-busting drug.
An MRI scan was performed during treatment with the clot-busting drug and again three hours later to assess the restoration of blood flow to blocked areas.
"To our knowledge, this is the first time someone has looked at the effects of statins on restoration of blood flow using brain tissue-based measurements instead of looking at the opening of blood vessels," said lead author Andria Ford.
"It's harder to do, but we feel it gives us more accurate measurements," she added.
Within three hours after treatment, blood flow restoration in the 12 patients already on statins averaged 50 percent.
In the 19 patients not taking statins, though, the average was 13 percent.
The results appear online in the journal Stroke.