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Researchers from 2 continents found that statins lower the frequency of a potentially deadly complication in patients who have strokes as a result of a ruptured blood vessel. The studies focused on a small number of patients who had subarachnoid hemorrhages in which a blood vessel burst, causing bleeding into the space between the brain and the skull. Oftentimes patients later experience vasospasm, a prolonged contraction of blood vessels that can lead to another stroke.
In the British study, 40 of the 80 patients were given pravastatin (Pravachol) for 14 days, beginning within 72 hours of a stroke. The results showed that patients taking the statins were 32% less likely to develop vasospasm, compared with the placebo group. Both the occurrences of vasospasm-caused disability and death also were significantly lower in patients receiving the statin.
In the US study, 39 patients were given simvastatin (Zocor) or a placebo within 48 hours of a stroke. The investigators found that only 25% of the patients receiving simvastatin had evidence of vasospasm during the 14-day trial, compared with 60% of the placebo group. (The findings from the 2 studies were reported in Stroke, August 2005.)