Doctors should rethink how they treat patients who have suffered the deadliest form of stroke, suggests a new study.
A change in guidelines for treating patients who have suffered strokes caused by bleeding in the brain while regularly taking aspirin has been recommended by the researchers, whose findings were published in The Lancet.
Until now a platelet transfusion has been used by doctors in the hope that it might aid recovery for this particular type of stroke, known as intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH).
It was thought that platelets, fragments of blood cells that aid with clotting, could block ruptured blood vessels and prevent further bleeding into the brain.
But now it has been found that giving platelet transfusions to patients who had suffered an ICH while taking aspirin reduced their chances of recovery.
Every year, about two million adults worldwide suffer strokes caused by ICH, which accounts for half of all stroke deaths.
Two out of five people die within one month, and a further two out of five become dependent on carers.
Out of the 10,000 cases of ICH in the UK each year, around one-quarter of patients are estimated to have been taking a course of aspirin beforehand.
Stroke patients who participated in the clinical trial received standard stroke care, but they were also randomly assigned either the platelet transfusion or no extra treatment.
Researchers found that platelet transfusions increased the risk of death and long-term disability compared with usual care.
However, it is unclear why patients given platelet transfusions were worse off than those who were not.
Researchers suggest the treatment may cause blood clots to form or trigger inflammation in the brain, worsening bleeding.
Study co-leader Professor Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, of Edinburgh University, said the findings should change clinical guidelines.
He said: “Our study shows that platelet transfusion seems harmful, and certainly is not beneficial, for people who take aspirin and have a stroke caused by bleeding into the brain.”