Predicting the impact of a stroke

Being able to predict the outcome of stroke soon after diagnosis has always been difficult for clinicians and health carers. Damage to the brain is notoriously difficult to predict and those involved in caring for stroke patients are always very cautious in their advice.

So the development of a stroke atlas is exciting and yet another initiative of Florey researchers to influence and improve global health care.

Those involved in the long road of rehabilitation for stroke patients could particularly benefit from a guide so they can tailor treatment to individual patients and reduce the awful uncertainty that goes with the disease. Until now, having an effective and inexpensive imaging-based tool to guide health carers and researchers was a wish rather than a reality.

Dr Tina Kaffenberger and her colleagues have developed an important first step towards developing such a tool which could be used around the world.

“For any kind of predictive model, we’re interested in the location of the stroke and how this relates to the final outcome for the patient.

“We could say, for example, ‘If the stroke has spared this area of the brain, this patient will be able to walk again’,” says Tina who is a member of the AVERT stroke rehabilitation group at our Heidelberg campus

“To do this we need a standardised atlas so that we all speak the same language when we define these brain areas.”

For the first time, Florey researchers have created a whole brain atlas based on an imaging template. They have collated routine CT images from the brains of hundreds of stroke patients.

This atlas allows analysis of big datasets to improve prediction tools for stroke patients. “In the longer term this could help to direct therapies in a better way and personalise them,” Tina says.

“While the motor cortex is directly related to motor function for example, higher cognitive tasks such as long term memory, attention or decision-making are spread around the brain,” she says.