Many Stroke Victims Still Don't Get Treated Fast Enough:
FRIDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- While a clot-busting
medication can often help stop a stroke in its tracks if it's given
promptly, a new study finds that a high number of stroke victims
continue to fail to get to the emergency room quickly enough to get
An analysis of about 115,000 patients who had strokes between
2005 and 2010 found that almost 44 percent didn't get to the
hospital until more than 4.5 hours after the time they were known
to first show symptoms. That's a sign of trouble: it's actually up
from 39 percent in 2005.
Meanwhile, the percentage who got to the hospital within two
hours fell from 40 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2010, another
sign that more patients may be in danger from not getting prompt
Also, many patients chose to get themselves to the hospital
instead of calling an ambulance, "boosting the risk that they won't
get there in time to be able to take a clot-busting drug," said
study co-author Dr. Mary George, a medical officer with the
division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The main message of the research is that more people need to
learn about the warning signs of stroke, George said. According to
the National Stroke Association, those symptoms appear suddenly and
include numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body);
confusion or trouble speaking; trouble seeing out of one or both
eyes; trouble with walking, dizziness, loss of balance or
coordination; or severe headache with no known cause.
"They need to know that when any of that occurs, or when they even just think it is occurring, to call 911," George said. "It is really critical that they don't wait, that they don't sit around and say 'Let's see if this goes away in a couple of hours.'"
The study authors found that the percentage of patients who
received treatment with tissue-plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug
that breaks up blood clots, grew from 6.4 to 9.2 percent over the
five years. The drug must be given promptly after a stroke and
isn't appropriate for all kinds of strokes.
Research suggests that people who arrive at the hospital via
ambulance are more likely to get the drug, George said. "They get
there quicker, they get seen quicker and perhaps there's more of a
sense of urgency."
There's no downside to providing more education about stroke,
said Dr. David Liebeskind, a professor of neurology at the
University of California, Los Angeles, who's familiar with the
findings. But it may be difficult to convince more patients to come
to the hospital promptly, he noted.
As for the rate of administration of the clot-busting drug,
Liebeskind said that while "there are definitely more patients who
could receive it," it takes a while for doctors to figure out what
to do at the hospital because of the potential risks.
"These are difficult decisions, and a lot of factors are being weighed. That may cause a slight delay," he said.
The study was to be presented Friday at the American Stroke
Association annual meeting in New Orleans.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about
stroke, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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