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What if you could predict how well a stroke patient will recover? A couple of UC researchers think they can

stroke picture.PNG
Ravenna Rutledge
University of Cincinnati
Pooja Khatri, MD, left, and Achala Vagal, MD, are two of the principal investigators of the VERIFY stroke recovery study.

Over the next four years, Pooja Khatri, MD and Achala Vagal, MD and a team of researchers across the U.S. will study stroke patients by looking at two key biomarkers.

There has been very little progress over the past three decades when it comes to stroke recovery. A couple of UC researchers think they know how to do it and are leading a nationwide study.

Pooja Khatri, MD and Achala Vagal, MD are zeroing in on upper arm mobility since that plays a huge role in how patients take care of themselves. Their study that will use both transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and MRI. The first measures function and the second looks at structure.

Khatri says it's important to get a head start on treatment. “We have these predictions and we’re able to say this patient has a pretty high likelihood of having their upper extremities stay weak. We can target therapies say on those patients and know that’s going to be who we get the biggest bang for our buck and make our trials less noisy.”

Khatri says right now, there's a lot of variability about who goes to acute rehabilitation after a stroke, and who goes to a skilled nursing facility. It’s hoped this study will give better direction.

“Scientifically, for future trials and future studies, this study will be very informative," says Vagal. "But also, at a patient level in the future, it will really help to find out which patient needs which kind of therapy and how much of it is really going to help them recover.”

The study is scheduled to start this spring and last four years. It’s hoped doctors will be able to create a more comprehensive prediction model using the TMS and MRI data along with other information, like how weak a patient was in the beginning and how much rehab has been done.

Stroke treatment relies on quick action. Doctors Vagal and Khatri remind people of FAST.

F = Face (one side is weak or numb)
A = Arm (It feels numb or is drifting when you hold it out)
S = Speech (slurred words)
T = Time (don’t delay)

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.