Aspirin: A good stroke preventive?

Research trials studying 40,000 stroke sufferers from all over the world have shown that the long-time panacea, aspirin, may also help prevent strokes in some cases. Researchers now say aspirin can be given immediately to sufferers of ischemic strokes caused by blood clots in the brain. A massive international study found that death rates decreased in the first two weeks after a stroke when patients were given aspirin.

However, the findings are neither conclusive nor a real breakthrough. Some concern has arisen from the scientific community because aspirin is not necessarily safe for all stroke patients. It may actually be harmful as a treatment for stroke, as it can sometimes cause internal bleeding.

The study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, compared aspirin use to heparin. Researchers found that heparin slightly increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The study concluded that physicians should take a cautionary approach to the use of heparin in stroke treatment, but provided no definitive message about the use of aspirin.

[See: International Stroke Trial Collaborative Group. The International Stroke Trial (IST): A randomised trial of aspirin, subcutaneous heparin, both, or neither among 19,435 patients with acute ischemic stroke. Lancet 1997; 1569-1581.

Bousser MG. Aspirin or heparin immediately after a stroke? Lancet 1997; 1564-1565.]