New York, NY (March 2004) -- The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary has opened a unique new service to prevent stroke and other cerebral vascular diseases in the thousands of patients who visit the The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Retina Center each year.
“Until now, we have treated patients for specific diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and hypertensive retinopathy,” said Thomas O. Muldoon, MD, director of the Retina Service at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. “With the new neurovascular service, we are greatly expanding our horizons. We are screening and testing these same patients with eye disease, many of whom are at high-risk for general blood vessel diseases and stroke, and educating them about prevention and then referring them for treatment.”
The innovative service is significant because The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary has the highest volume of retina patients in the Metro New York region -- 22,000 patient visits a year for retinal problems.
“The eye diseases we identify are frequently a manifestation of larger blood circulatory system problems, including stroke, which is the third leading cause death in the United States,” said Matthew E. Fink, MD, director of the neurovascular service. “What is exciting is that we can prevent stroke in these patients.”
Once referred to the neurovascular service, high-risk patients undergo a thorough evaluation, which, depending on an initial diagnosis, will be followed up by diagnostic tests -- blood tests, ultrasound exams, Doppler echograms, standard CT and MRI imaging, and screening tests for peripheral vascular diseases. These tests determine the location and severity of a potential blood vessel disease, such as blockage of the carotid artery. Then patients are educated about preventive measures and referred for appropriate treatment.
“The sooner we diagnose a patient, the sooner he or she can be treated with blood thinning medications, surgery or advanced endovascular procedures; and a serious stroke, with resultant disabilities, can be avoided,” said Dr. Fink, who is also director of the Hyman-Newman Center for Neurology at Beth Israel Medical Center and a professor of Neurology and Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Stroke is caused by disruption of blood flow to the brain. “Most people do not realize that the eye is part of the brain and that the same blood vessels feed both organs,” said Dr. Fink, “A vision problem can be caused by a blood vessel blockage to the brain, and could indicate a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – or mini-stroke, a carotid artery blockage, a heart valve problem where a platelet has broken off, or an occlusion of a vein. Our mission is to identify in the body the systemic cause of the vision loss, if there is one, and treat it to prevent stroke.”
Dr. Fink is a nationally known advocate for educating the medical and lay public about how to prevent stroke. “To reduce risk, patients can modify their lifestyles – cut out smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, or lose weight if obese,” he said. “In addition, some medical conditions – hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, carotid artery blockage and hyperlipidemia – increase risk and should be treated.”
More immediate indications of a stroke include: sudden vision loss, sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden dizziness; loss of balance and sudden severe headache.
Each year about 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, according to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association. About 500,000 of these are first attacks. Stroke accounted for more than one of every 15 deaths in the country in 2001.
for an appointment at The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary Retina Center: (212) 614-8200
for a doctor affiliated with NY Eye & Ear Infirmary: (212) 979-4472
If you are a reporter seeking to interview this or any other doctor at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, please contact Jean Thomas, at (212) 979-4274, or Axel F. Bang, at (914) 234-5433.
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