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Oxford researchers test Viagra to prevent recurrent strokes

Oxford researchers test Viagra to prevent recurrent strokes

University of Oxford researchers have begun a clinical trial to assess whether the drug sildenafil, marketed as Viagra, could improve blood flow to the brain and so have the potential to reduce damage to small blood vessels in the brain and prevent strokes.

Chronic damage to small blood vessels deep in the brain is found in half of patients over the age of 60 and almost all patients over the age of 80, and is responsible for up to a third of strokes and around 40 percent of dementia.

Potential explanations for how small vessel disease develops include: a greater change in blood pressure with each beat of the heart (pulsatility), which hits the brain with increased force with each beat; or a reduced ability of the blood vessels in the brain to adapt to changes in the environment, also known as their reactivity.

Sildenafil is currently used to open up blood vessels in patients with erectile difficulties or poor blood supply to the lungs.

This trial will test sildenafil against a placebo tablet and against a similar drug called cilostazol in 75 patients who have had a stroke or mini-stroke previously and who also have evidence of injury to their small blood vessels on a brain scan.

Read more on the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre website.