Of the approximately 152,000 stroke victims in the UK each year, some 10% suffer haemorrhagic strokes – or ‘bleeding strokes’. Any stroke is potentially devastating, but bleeding strokes are particularly serious and far more likely to lead to the sufferer's death. Even those who survive are likely to have sustained neurological damage causing severe and permanent disability.
Until now, statins have been thought to be an ineffective treatment for bleeding strokes, as they lower cholesterol and therefore thin the blood. Many think they make bleeding worse and are inappropriate for treating bleeding strokes. But new research in the USA now seems to dispute this advice.
The study is the largest of its kind to date. It analysed data on patients who suffered bleeding strokes and compared those whose statins were stopped with those whose statins were continued. Of those stopped, only 42% survived beyond one month after their stroke. In contrast, 81% of patients who continued to take their statins survived the same period.
These compelling statistics are being reported as demonstrating the benefits of statins. These include reduced inflammation and improved blood flow to the brain, which may actually protect the patient against further brain damage and injury, rather than contribute to the bleeding.
The researchers suggest that the study provides sufficient evidence to recommend that patients who suffer from a bleeding stroke should be treated with statins for at least 30 days after their stroke. The Stroke Association is also optimistic that this is a "significant step" towards developing effective ways to help victims of bleeding strokes.