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Clinical Research

Low dose β blockade in acute stroke (“BEST” trial): an evaluation

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 12 March 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:737
  1. D H Barer,
  2. J M Cruickshank,
  3. S B Ebrahim,
  4. J R A Mitchell


    The β blocker stroke (“BEST”) trial was designed to see if the apparent protective effect of propranolol on cerebral function in patients with subarachnoid haemorrhage applied also to patients suffering from acute stroke. Three hundred and two conscious patients with clinically diagnosed hemispheric strokes sustained within the past 48 hours were randomly assigned to receive atenolol, propranolol, or matching placebo capsules for three weeks. More early deaths occurred among the patients allocated to receive β blockers, but this was largely explained by differences in the initial characteristics of the patients among the different treatment groups. By contrast, the outcome in a further 60 patients, who had been taking β blockers at the time of their stroke but were otherwise similar to the patients in the trial, was considerably better, suggesting that prior treatment with β blockers might be protective.

    The search for an effective medical treatment for acute stroke must continue. The approach used here, in which neurological outcome was assessed in a modest number of patients with a view to proceeding subsequently to a full scale trial of functional outcome, allows practical benefits of a treatment to be evaluated under realistic conditions and an ineffective treatment to be eliminated without undue cost.

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