News release: The Canadian Stroke Congress

Experts converge in Calgary to shape the future direction of stroke, from September 9 to 11, 2017

What: Hundreds of stroke experts from Canada and around the world converge in Calgary to brainstorm strategies to eradicate the impact of stroke, showcase the latest research breakthroughs − and hear more than 100 speakers highlight innovations in basic science, prevention, treatment and recovery. Congress delegates return home to their labs and stroke practices armed with new tools and knowledge that will help prevent stroke, reduce disability and save lives.

Why: Stroke is a medical emergency. It is the third leading cause of death in Canada and a leading cause of disability. Stroke can happen at any age.

Where: Calgary Telus Convention Centre, 120 Ninth Avenue SE (Media Room: TELUS 101)

When: Interviews available now through Sept. 11, including onsite in Calgary from Sept. 8 to 11

Interview opportunities
  • Leading stroke experts: Available to talk about the impact of stroke, why it matters to all Canadians, and give highlights of the research discoveries and revolutionary ideas being presented at the 2017 Congress.
  • Congress researchers and presenters: The presenters featured below are available to talk about their Congress presentations and their impactful work in the area of stroke.
  • Stroke survivors: Available to share their stroke and recovery stories.
  • Calgary media: Stroke experts will be available in Calgary for on-site or in-studio interviews from Sept. 8 to 11.
Conference highlights

Hot Topic in Stroke: Indigenous Health

It’s a stark reality: Indigenous people in Canada have a higher likelihood of developing stroke, yet face massive barriers. Social and economic determinants such as poverty, education and food security impact health and create real barriers to good health. Health systems are failing them. Access to the treatment and recovery is a major issue in many Indigenous communities. This has to change.  

  • Personal perspectives and reflections on Indigenous health in Canada: Former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and stroke survivor Senator Murray Sinclair opens the Congress by sharing his own experience with stroke and gives his personal perspectives on why health reconciliation is necessary. (Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair)
  • Working together to address the Indigenous health gap: A call-to-action. Heart & Stroke national director of Indigenous health calls on health leaders to work together with Indigenous communities to help close the gap in Indigenous health. (Wendelyn Johnson, Six Nations ON)

Canada’s first stroke ambulance is on the road! 

  The University of Alberta Hospital’s stroke ambulance is making a stop at Congress! Media are invited to visit the ambulance and hear about it from experts on Saturday Sept. 9 and Sunday Sept. 10 in the Exhibit Hall. The first of its kind in the world to focus on rural stroke care, the stroke ambulance is dispatched when a rural site contacts a stroke neurologist for a telestroke consult within 250 km of Edmonton. Staffed by a highly trained team including a paramedic, registered nurse, CT technician and stroke physician, this mobile stroke centre can be sent directly to a patient’s location, allowing for on-board brain scans, direct audio and video connections to the hospital’s stroke neurologist, and the ability to administer clot-busting drugs. Its use is being tested in ACHIEVE, a two-year $ 3.3 million clinical research project funded by the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation, looking at impact on patients’ treatment and recovery ‒ and resulting savings to the healthcare system and the community. (Thomas Jeerakathil and Shy Amlani, Edmonton)

Key moments in advancing acute stroke care for all Canadians

 The Hnatyshyn Lecture honours a top stroke researcher for significant contributions to stroke over their career. This year’s lecturer looks at milestones in stroke prevention and treatment over the last 30 years, with a special look at how telestroke increases access to stroke care for people outside of large urban areas. With Canada’s vast geography, we could reap incredible benefits by moving this model into other parts of stroke care and recovery. (Frank Silver, Toronto)

Hot Topic in Stroke: Rehabilitation

More than 400,000 Canadians live with long-term disability from stroke and this number will almost double in the next 20 years. At least 60% of stroke survivors require some rehabilitation. Recovery can take months or years, even for milder strokes − and many never fully recover. Continued advances in rehabilitation and recovery can mean real hope for a better future for thousands of Canadians.

  • Computers, Robots and Drugs – Up and coming advances in stroke rehabilitation: Can drugs improve recovery after stroke? Where does technology meet stroke rehabilitation? This year’s plenary on stroke rehabilitation brings together some of Canada’s leading experts to look at the latest and greatest advances – including the use of robots, brain stimulation and other techniques to enhance stroke recovery. (Sean Dukelow, Calgary; Wes Oczkowski, Hamilton; moderated by Michelle Ploughman, St. John’s)
  • You and your frontal lobes: The frontal lobes are important to stroke outcomes. Their functions ‒ planning, verifying, and even self-awareness and reflection ‒ are considered to be the highest level of human abilities, important for controlling and interacting with other brain regions. Because the frontal lobes are richly inter-connected with virtually all brain regions, dysfunction anywhere in the brain can affect these abilities. Because these are flexible abilities, the efficient functioning of the frontal lobes is impacted by many of what are often considered as non-brain problems, such as pain, sleep deprivation, dual-tasking, depression and stress. Knowing where exactly the stroke damage occurred in the frontal lobes, or in inter-connected networks, means instructions given during rehabilitation can be tailored to each specific patient. (Donald Stuss, Toronto)
  • The Great Debate: How much should we stress about stress tests? Two rehabilitation experts debate the issues surrounding cardiac stress testing and exercise programs post-stroke. Should stress tests be done on everyone before they start stroke rehabilitation? How necessary are they? (Marilyn MacKay-Lyons, Halifax, and Janice Eng, Vancouver)
  • Driving after stroke: Having one’s driving privilege revoked can be a particularly emotional issue and difficult to accept. Stroke survivors may experience physical and perceptual disabilities but many regain functional independence and can return to safe driving. Those who do are usually better able to re-integrate actively into their community. Dr. Finestone addresses the challenges doctors face when assessing their stroke patients’ driving safety. It is important for Canadians to know how stroke may affect their driving performance and provinces’ different physician-reporting laws. (Hillel Finestone, Ottawa)
  • Predicting and promoting recovery following stroke: A stroke survivor’s ability to live independently depends on the severity of their stroke, their age – and how well their hand and arm recover movement. Dr. Cathy Stinear, a world leader in stroke rehabilitation research, is using biomarkers – such as the response to transcranial magnetic stimulation – to predict how well the hand and arm will recover following stroke. This is particularly important to identify people with initially severe stroke who have potential for good recovery, to ensure they receive the right rehabilitation strategies for their particular case. These predictions allow therapists to tailor rehabilitation, and to give patients and their families a better understanding of what to expect for their recovery. (Cathy Stinear, Auckland, New Zealand)

Hot Topic in Stroke: Stroke Systems
Stroke experts stress that the best way to improve stroke care for all Canadians is to have a coordinated system in place, by having right resources, in the right place, at the right time. Brain cells die at a rate of two million per minute after stroke: The faster someone experiencing a stroke gets to an appropriate stroke hospital and receives treatment, the better their chances of survival and recovery.

  • Alberta stroke successes: Stroke is a treatable disease, but treatments are highly time dependent, and the first few hours after onset are critical in determining if someone survives and how well they recover. Processes need to be in place and all disciplines need to work together to save neurons and treat patients as quickly as possible. Alberta is a world-leader in getting stroke patients the emergency diagnosis and treatment they need. It has reduced time-to-treatment to an average of 36 minutes after hospital arrival for all Albertans, which is one of the fastest in the world. With all players working in parallel, even the most severe stroke patients can have access endovascular therapy (clot retrieval through minimally invasive surgery), which is only available in large urban hospitals, through rapid field evaluation of the patient by paramedics and consult. This shining example of how to design a stroke system is an opportunity for other provinces – and jurisdictions around the world – to emulate and improve stroke care and recovery. (Noreen Kamal, Calgary)
  • Do the patients recruited in clinical trials reflect real world patients and outcomes? Often results obtained in research studies are better than what happens in routine care, which raises questions and puts pressure on stroke systems to perform better. Are the positive results reported in clinical trials seen when they are applied to stroke practice in the real world? Using the example of thrombectomy studies, World Stroke Organization president Dr. Werner Hacke examines issues related to the selection of patients for clinical trials and how demographic differences between them and average patients impacts the efficiency of clinical processes and systems of care. (Werner Hacke, Heidelberg, Germany)

Late Breaking Clinical Trials (to be released on Monday, Sept. 11)

  • Managing stroke in pregnancy: A new Canadian consensus statement Specialists providing either obstetrical or stroke care may encounter women with a past stroke wanting to get pregnant, or women who develop a stroke during or immediately after a pregnancy. How should these cases be managed? Experts today release management considerations for healthcare professionals in treating woman with stroke prior to, during, and right after pregnancy. (Rick Swartz, Toronto)
  • The COMPASS Trial: Primary results: The recently published breaking results from McMaster University’s COMPASS study ‒ halted early because of its significant results ‒ will be presented Monday Sept. 11 at the Congress. Cardiovascular OutcoMes for People using Anticoagulation StrategieS (COMPASS) includes more than 600 research sites in more than 30 countries and is the largest clinical study ever done investigating the potential of a drug to prevent heart attacks, stroke or cardiovascular death in patients with coronary or peripheral artery disease. (Mike Sharma, Hamilton)

Top Breakthroughs at the Canadian Stroke Congress (presented Monday, Sept 11):

  • Canadian Stroke Congress 2017’s top research breakthroughs: Highlights of this year’s top breakthroughs in Canadian stroke research will be presented on Monday, Sept. 11, including the Co-Chair Impact and Innovation Awards. (See the Congress program for full list)
  • The 2017 Co-Chair Award for Innovation: Robotic assessments in children with perinatal stroke. Perinatal stroke – which happen between the middle of pregnancy through the first month of life – is a leading cause of early brain injury, cerebral palsy and lifelong neurological disability. Using the unique KINARM exoskeleton robot, a team of University Calgary researchers has identified a revolutionary new way to assess function in children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy. Understanding not only what aspects of movement are impaired in the stroke-affected arm, but also what we traditionally assume is the "unaffected," normal limb, will help us to guide therapeutic interventions specific to each child in the hopes of improving arm function. (Andrea Kuczynski, Calgary)
  • The 2017 Co-Chair Award for Impact: The relationship between heart rhythm and stroke recurrence. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of the most common and treatable risk factors for stroke. This study shows, for the first time, that AF which is diagnosed after a stroke may be associated with a relatively low risk of ischemic stroke recurrence, a finding which counters current knowledge that AF detected before and after ischemic stroke are associated with the same high risk of stroke recurrence. This discovery could lead to novel research pathways with important clinical and therapeutic implications. (Luciano A. Sposato, London, Ont.)
Quotes: The Canadian Stroke Congress

"The Canadian Stroke Congress is a catalyst for partnerships, collaboration and new ideas, all aimed at improving the health of Canadians. In bringing together frontline clinicians, researchers, patients and others to collaborate, learn and fuel new ideas, it plays a major role in transforming stroke care here and around the world. Experts return home to their labs and stroke practices armed with new tools and knowledge which will improve stroke prevention, treatment and recovery for all."
Dr. Sean Dukelow, co-chair, Canadian Stroke Congress

“The threat of stroke is urgent. There is a stroke every nine minutes in Canada and it is responsible for 13,000 deaths each year. As the Canadian population ages, and more young people are having strokes, the number of people living with stroke and requiring support will continue to increase. The evolving scientific evidence shared at the Canadian Stroke Congress will inform and continue to shape the future of stroke ─ and save lives.” Dr. Patrice Lindsay, director of stroke, Heart & Stroke “Experts from around the world converge for the Canadian Stroke Congress for a first-hand look at emerging research findings and the best-practices which have true potential to become tomorrow’s prevention and treatment strategies. This unique opportunity to meet and hear from an exceptional line-up of national and international leaders − representing the entire spectrum of stroke prevention, research and clinical care − will set the future directions for how we think about and treat stroke.”   
Dr. Jeffrey Minuk, co-chair, Canadian Stroke Congress

Stroke facts
  • A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function.
  • 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year – that is one stroke every nine minutes.
  • Each year, more than 13,000 Canadians die from stroke.
  • 80% of people survive stroke.
  • Brain cells die at a rate of 1.9 million per minute after stroke.
  • After stroke 60% are left with some disability; 40% require more intense rehabilitation and support.
  • More than 400,000 Canadians live with long-term disability from stroke and this will almost double in the next 20 years.
  • Stroke can happen at any age. Stroke among people under 65 is increasing and stroke risk factors are increasing for young adults.

The Congress is being held in Calgary, AB from September 9 to 11, 2017. Follow us on Twitter @strokecongress, #CdnStrokeCongress.

Statements and conclusions of study authors are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect H&S or CSC policy or position. Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Stroke Consortium make no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability.

About the Canadian Stroke Congress

Co-hosted by Heart & Stroke and the Canadian Stroke Consortium, the Canadian Stroke Congress is a uniquely Canadian forum for experts to share the latest research findings, exchange ideas, and make the connections which will change the future of stroke. It brings together researchers, neurologists, nurses, rehabilitation specialists, policy makers, health system decision makers – and many others – in an unprecedented opportunity to improve the brain health of Canadians. 

About the Canadian Stroke Consortium

The Canadian Stroke Consortium is the professional organization for stroke neurologists, leading continuing education, advocacy and research for healthcare professionals. 

About Heart & Stroke

More moments. More life. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. Powered by donors and volunteers, we fund life-saving research and help Canadians lead healthier lives.

For media interviews, please contact

Diane Hargrave
416-467-9954, ext. 102

After September 15, 2017, contact:
Jane-Diane Fraser
Heart & Stroke
(613) 691-4020
Cell from Sept. 8-15: 613-406-3282