Cholesterol Drugs Work for Most Stroke Patients

Hemorrhagic strokes patients may not benefit from cholesterol lowering statins

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Though cholesterol lowering statin drugs can cut stroke risk in most individuals, it's not a suitable treatment for a certain group of at-risk patients.

That's because the treatment only aids patients with certain types of strokes. Those at risk for hemorrhagic strokes, characterized by bleeding in the brain, may see no benefit.

"Ask your doctor about using statins to reduce stroke risk."

Dr. Murray Flaster, author of the article, and an associate professor in the departments of neurology and neurological surgery of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and medical director of Loyola's outpatient neurology clinic, said  that in addition a small group of patients who had an ischemic stroke should only be placed on statins after doctor scrutiny, especially if they experienced strokes in small blood vessels, have poorly controlled high blood pressure or drink more than one alcoholic drink a day.

A published 2006 study showed that patients who had previously experienced strokes or transient ischemic attacks, also called mini-strokes, could reduce their risk of another stroke by 16 percent by taking statins.

However that only applies to ischemic strokes, caused by blood clots in brain vessels. About 85 percent of strokes are ischemic. There is little proof that those who have experienced aneurysmal subarachnoid strokes, a type of hemorrhagic stroke that involves bleeding over the surface of the brain, will benefit from taking statins, though evidence points to a slight benefit.

But for intracranial hemorrhage stroke patients, another type of hemorrhagic stroke that involves bleeding inside the brain, high-dose statin therapy should be avoided until the risks and benefits are better understood, Dr. Flaster said.

Despite the recommendations for hemorrhagic stroke patients, Dr. Flaster said those who have a stroke while already taking statins should continue the drug therapy until patients can be reassessed after recovery.

Dr. Flaster noted that additional research, including more clinical trials, on the subject is needed to determine in which cases statins are both safe and effective.

The review was published in journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 20, 2011
Last Updated:
August 22, 2011