Recent treatment advances brighten prospects for intracerebral hemorrhage patients



– Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) appears to be not nearly as uniformly devastating to patients as its reputation suggests. Recent study results documented unexpectedly decent recovery prospects for hemorrhagic stroke patients assessed after 1 year who were earlier considered moderately severe or severely disabled based on their 30-day status. And these data provide further support for the growing impression among clinicians that a way forward for improving outcomes even more is with a “gentle” surgical intervention designed to substantially reduce ICH clot volume.

Dr. Kevin N. Sheth, professor of neurology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Dr. Kevin N. Sheth

“Historically, there’s been a lot of nihilism around these patients. Intracerebral hemorrhage has always been the deadliest stroke type, but one of the great advances of the past 10-20 years is that ICH survival has improved. Patients do better than we used to think,” said Kevin N. Sheth, MD, professor of neurology and neurosurgery, and chief of neurocritical care and emergency neurology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. “Even though ICH remains a difficult disease, this change has two big implications,” Dr. Sheth said in an interview during the International Stroke Conference sponsored by the American Heart Association. First, increased ICH survival offers an opportunity to expand the reach of recent management advances through quality improvement programs that emphasize new strategies that work better and incentivize delivery of these successful strategies to more patients.

The second implication is simply a growing number of ICH survivors, expanding the population of patients who stand to gain from these new management strategies. Dr. Sheth is working with the Get With the Guidelines – Stroke program, a quality-improvement program begun in 2003 and until now aimed at patients with acute ischemic stroke, to develop a 15-site pilot program planned to start in 2020 that will begin implementing and studying a Get With the Guidelines – Stroke quality-improvement program focused on patients with an ICH. The current conception of a quality measurement and improvement program like Get with the Guidelines – Stroke for patients with ICH stems from an important, earlier milestone in the emergence of effective ICH treatments, the 2018 publication of performance measures for ICH care that identified nine key management steps for assessing quality of care and documented the evidence behind them.

“Evidence for optimal treatment of ICH has lagged behind that for ischemic stroke, and consequently, metrics specific to ICH care have not been widely promulgated,” said the authors of the 2018 ICH performance measures, a panel that included Dr. Sheth. “However, numerous more recent studies and clinical trials of various medical and surgical interventions for ICH have been published and form the basis of evidence-based guidelines for the management of ICH,” they explained.

MISTIE III showcases better ICH outcomes

Perhaps the most dramatic recent evidence of brighter prospects for ICH patients came in data collected during the MISTIE III (Minimally Invasive Surgery with Thrombolysis in Intracerebral Hemorrhage Evacuation III) trial, which randomized 506 ICH patients with a hematoma of at least 30 mL to standard care or to a “gentle” clot-reduction protocol using a small-bore catheter placed with stereotactic guidance to both evacuate clot and introduce a serial infusion of alteplase into the clot to try to shrink its volume to less than 15 mL. The study’s results showed a neutral effect for the primary outcome, the incidence of recovery to a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score of 0-3 at 1 year after entry, which occurred in 45% of the surgically treated patients and 41% of the controls in a modified intention-to-treat analysis that included 499 of the randomized patients, a difference that did not reach statistical significance.

However, when the analysis focused on the 146 of 247 patients (59%) randomized to surgical plus lytic intervention who underwent the procedure and actually had their clot volume reduced to 15 mL or less per protocol, the adjusted incidence of the primary endpoint was double that of patients who underwent the procedure but failed to have their residual clot reduced to this size. A similar doubling of good outcomes occurred when MISTIE patients had their residual clot cut to 20 mL or less, compared with those who didn’t reach this, with the differences in both analyses statistically significant. The actual rates showed patients with clot cut to 15 mL or less having a 53% rate of a mRS score of 0-3 after 1 year, compared with 33% of patients who received the intervention but had their residual clot remain above 15 mL.

The MISTIE III investigators looked at their data to try to get better insight into the outcome of all “poor prognosis” patients in the study regardless of their treatment arm assignment, and how patients and their family members made decisions for withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy. In MISTIE III, 61 patients had withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (WoLST), with more than 40% of the WoLST occurring with patients randomized to the intervention arm including 10 patients treated to a residual clot volume of 15 mL or less. To quantify the disease severity in these 61 patients, the researchers applied a six-item formula at 30 days after the stroke, a metric their 2019 report described in detail. They then used these severity scores to identify 104 matched patients who were alive at 30 days and remained on life-sustaining treatment to see their 1-year outcomes. At 30 days, the 104 matched patients included 82 (79%) with a mRS score of 5 (severe disability) and 22 patients (21%) with a mRS score of 4 (moderately severe disability). Overall, an mRS score of 4 or 5 was quite prevalent 30 days after the stroke, with 87% of the patients treated with the MISTIE intervention and 90% of the control patients having this degree of disability at 30 days.

When the MISTIE III investigators followed these patients for a year, they made an unexpected finding: A substantial incidence of patients whose condition had improved since day 30. One year out, 40 (39%) of these 104 patients had improved to a mRS score of 1-3, including 10 (10%) with a mRS score of 1 or 2. Another indicator of the reasonable outcome many of these patients achieved was that after 1 year 69% were living at home.

Noeleen Ostapkovich, Brain Injury Outcomes Clinical Trial Coordinating Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Noeleen Ostapkovich

“Our data show that many ICH subjects with clinical factors that suggest ‘poor prognosis,’ when given time, can achieve a favorable outcome and return home,” concluded Noeleen Ostapkovich, who presented these results at the Stroke Conference.

She cited these findings as potentially helpful for refining the information given to patients and families on the prognosis for ICH patients at about 30 days after their event, the usual time for assessment. “These patients looked like they weren’t going to do well after 30 days, but by 365 days they had improved physically and in their ability to care for themselves at home,” noted Ms. Ostapkovich, a researcher in the Brain Injury Outcomes Clinical Trial Coordinating Center of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.


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