• How Has Stroke Treatment Changed?

How Has Stroke Treatment Changed?

Jan 23 2021 Read 4652 Times

After years criticism and scepticism from the medical industry, Australian neurologist Anne Abbott is gaining recognition for her research suggesting strokes can be prevented without surgical intervention. Instead of resorting to procedures such as carotid surgery and stents, Abbott says medication and lifestyle changes can play a significant role in reducing the risk of stroke due to the thickening of arteries, which can cause carotid stenosis and lead to blockages.

“For decades, it was standard practice to operate on people who have carotid stenosis – by cutting open an artery and removing the narrowing,” added Abbott. “More recently, carotid stenting was introduced, and this is even more dangerous than surgery. But my research a decade ago showed, in many cases, these procedures are unnecessary or cause net harm,” says Abbott. “Major improvements can simply be made by medical – as opposed to procedural – interventions, such as the adoption of healthier lifestyles, anti-cholesterol drugs, taking blood pressure and cutting out smoking.”

Despite backing her claims with solid research and studies, Abbott was continually blocked by multiple institutions and pressured to cease her attempts to promote alternative stroke prevention solutions. “To get all this resistance from multiple people, multiple institutions, was shocking and tiring,” she added. “It became terribly difficult to keep going.”

Scientist subjected to “shocking” criticism

Abbott describes the cynicism she received as “shocking” and says her views impacted her ability to win grants. “I was told not to publish my research findings,” recalls Abbott, an associate professor of neuroscience at Monash University in Melbourne. “I was shocked. Then it became hard to submit grant applications to continue my research. People would say ‘yes’ to my proposals, then at the last minute, they would back out. If you can’t put a grant in, it could be the end of your research career.”

In 2020 Abbott’s career veered onto a different path when she was awarded the international John Maddox prize. The prestigious award recognises scientists that stand up for their research and challenge established practices, with previous laureates including environmentalists who have warned about the catastrophic dangers of coral reef bleaching and mass rainforest destruction. Other John Maddox winners been recognised for challenging the use of vitamin C supplements for cancer treatment.

Great “courage and determination” shown by stroke researcher

Abbot was awarded the prize alongside US health chief Anthony Fauci and South African clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist, for “communicating the complex science of Covid-19 in the midst of international uncertainty and anxiety.”

“It takes great courage and determination to go against established practices,” says Magdalena Skipper, a Maddox prize judge and editor-in-chief of scientific journal, Nature. “Anne Abbott’s efforts to move away from unnecessary clinical interventions and procedures have shifted stroke prevention methods and improved stroke prevention worldwide – despite coming up against resistance from her academic seniors.”

Medical marijuana is another concept that once received heavy criticism but is now gaining recognition for its therapeutic properties. Find out more in ‘The Movement Towards More Comprehensive Testing of Mycotoxins in Cannabis.’

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