SUNY Downstate Medical Center has been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to join the Neurological Emergencies Treatment Trials (NETT) network, which is dedicated to improving emergency care for neurological injuries that require immediate care, such as stroke, seizures, and traumatic brain injury, as well as other illnesses affecting the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.
"It is gratifying that SUNY Downstate's expertise in the neurosciences and emergency medicine is being recognized by this important designation," says John F. Williams, MD, EdD, MPH, FCCM, president of SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "We are well situated to make major contributions to this critical field of medical study."
SUNY Downstate is one of 17 prestigious academic medical centers chosen this year to be a NETT "Hub" and is the only newly funded site in New York State. As part of NETT, Downstate brings advanced medical treatment to residents of New York City's five boroughs, Nassau County, and elsewhere in New York State through a series of national clinical trials geared towards evaluating treatments given during neurological emergencies. Oversight of NETT is provided by an advisory group appointed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a component of the NIH.
"Frequently, there is a narrow window of opportunity to successfully treat neurological damage," says Steven R. Levine, MD, principal investigator for Downstate's NETT site. "This makes it difficult to conduct studies that help evaluate best or new treatments. As a part of NETT, we can work with paramedics and ER physicians to better study rapid interventions."
"For patients with acute neurological disorders, hospital emergency departments are very often the port of entry to getting care and embarking on the road to recovery," says Richard H. Sinert, DO, co-principal investigator for NETT at Downstate. Dr. Sinert is also professor and research director in Downstate's Department of Emergency Medicine. "The prospect of identifying more effective ways to treat these neurological emergencies is inspiring."
One of the NETT studies Dr. Levine is conducting is POINT (Platelet-oriented Inhibition in New TIA and Minor Ischemic Stroke). TIAs - transient ischemic attacks - are common, and can be a warning sign of potential disabling strokes. TIA symptoms are often similar to those of stroke (numbness or weakness, confusion, dizziness, loss of balance), but there is no way that a patient can tell if the symptoms are from a TIA or an acute stroke.
"POINT will help physicians evaluate whether adding another anti-blood clotting medication to aspirin will help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack in the three months following the TIA," Dr. Levine notes. "It is using highly rigorous scientific clinical trial methods whereby neither the patient nor the research team knows which treatment the patient is on. A separate safety monitoring committee will know which treatment patients are on and will insure overall safety in the study," he adds.