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Breakthroughs in stoke treatment and paracetamol overdoses reduced through legislation

A round-up of the health news headlines on Friday 8 February

A third of life support machines are switched off too soon for patients suffering intracerebral haemorrhages, an American study has found.

The Telegraph reports that a third of patients whose machines are turned off following bleeding strokes had a reasonable chance of recovery.

A team from University of Washington Stroke Centre in Seattle, matched 78 patients whose life support was switched off to 78 patients in whom it was not.

The results showed that 38% of patients whose life support was kept on were eventually discharged from hospital compared with 4% whose machines were switched off.

Dr David Tirschwell, lead author and co-director of the stroke centre, said: ‘Greater patience and less pessimism may be called for in making these life-and-death decisions.’

Staying on stroke treatment, the Daily Mail reports that surgeons have been inserting drugs into the brain of stroke victims to dissolve clots.

A study shows that clots were removed in 50% of patients given medication directly into the brain, compared with just 5% of patients receiving standard care.

Researchers from at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore presented at the American Stroke Association’s annual conference, showing that patients having surgery using the recombinant tissue plasminogen activator drugs had significantly less disability a year later.

The drug is fed into the clot via a catheter every eight hours for about three days. As the clot liquefies, it is removed through the catheter.

Daniel Hanley, study leader and professor of neurology, said: ‘There is now real hope we have a treatment for the last form of stroke that doesn’t have a treatment – brain haemorrhage.’

Finally, the BBC reports that an Oxford University study has shown that deaths from paracetamol overdoses fell by 43% in England and Wales in the 11 years after the law on pack sizes was changed.

However, the number of people taking paracetamol overdoses had not declined, the study in the BMJ found.

The researchers found that there were 765 fewer deaths after the legislation was introduced in 1998 than would have been predicted based on trends. In 1998 the government restricted pack sizes in the UK to 32 tablets in pharmacies and 16 in other shops.

Professor Keith Hawton, lead researcher from the University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research, said: ‘While some of this effect could have been due to improved hospital management of paracetamol overdoses, we believe that this has in large part been due to the introduction of the legislation.’

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