WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Of the four million survivors of stroke each year in the United States, as many as 30 percent will experience a tightness of the muscles in the arms and legs, known as spasticity.
To help patients cope with this problem, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has opened a new spasticity clinic at CompRehab Plaza.
The clinic will offer botulinum toxin type A (BoNTA) as a treatment option. New research shows that repeated treatments of botulinum toxin type A (BoNTA) over one year after a stroke can improve muscle tone and reduce pain in the arms and hands, making it easier for patients to dress themselves and perform personal hygiene.
“Botox® treatments result in sustained and meaningful functional improvement that makes a difference in the daily lives of stroke patients and the people who care for them,” said Allison Brashear, M.D., professor and chairman of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist, and head of the new clinic.
Brashear and her colleagues conducted a national study in 2001 to evaluate repeated treatment with BoNTA (marketed as Botox®) for post-stroke spasticity.
The study involved 35 centers and included 279 stroke patients with wrist, hand or elbow spasticity. Brashear and her colleagues found that muscle tone in the wrist, fingers, thumb, and elbow was markedly improved after receiving the injections and was sustained throughout the study.
“If it isn’t managed effectively, post-stroke spasticity can result in very disabling complications such as contractures, a condition that leaves the muscles and tendons permanently shortened,” said Brashear. “Early intervention with effective therapies is absolutely vital to prevent the profound disability that afflicts many stroke patients, and to lessen the emotional and financial toll on caregivers and the health care system as a whole.”
Brashear said the treatment is safe and well-tolerated in post-stroke patients and may represent a significant advantage over many oral anti-spasticity medications.
“Such drugs are associated with a high incidence of systemic effects such as sedation, mental confusion, dizziness and muscle weakness, all of which can seriously hinder rehabilitation after a stroke,” she said.
Every year, about 700,000 Americans suffer a new or recurring stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, and it was estimated that the costs associated with lost productivity due to stroke-related disability totaled $21.8 billion in 2005.
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.