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Study shows how 'every minute counts' in stroke treatment

When it comes to securing treatment for a stroke, most people have a general idea that it's important to get to the hospital relatively quickly. However, a recently published study in the medical journal JAMA reveals that when it comes to stroke treatment, time is truly of the essence.

As part of the study, researchers examined the cases of 71,169 patients treated at more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals for ischemic strokes, meaning those strokes involving blood clots. Specifically, they compared the treatment and outcomes for patients treated between 2003 and 2009 with those treated between 2010 and 2013.

During this latter time period, the hospitals involved in the study adopted a stroke treatment improvement plan advanced by multiple organizations, including the American Stroke Association. The plan calls upon hospitals to introduce measures designed to hasten stroke care, including having paramedics inform the hospitals when they are en route with a stroke patient and expediting everything from brain scans to the administration of medication.

After examining the two timeframes, the researchers discovered the following:

  • The number of patients administered the important medication tissue plasminogen activator -- or tPA -- within an hour of admittance to the hospital jumped from 26 percent to 41 percent.
  • In-hospital deaths among patients who received treatment declined from 9.9 percent to 8.2 percent.
  • The number of patients able to walk after their strokes increased from 42.2 percent to 45.4 percent, while the number of patients able to recover at home instead of a nursing home increased from 37.6 percent to 42.7 percent.
  • The overall incidence of bleeding in the brain, a common stroke-related complication, declined from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent.

"From a public health standpoint, these are large differences," said the study's primary author. "In the course of this study alone, thousands of lives were saved."

While the study authors were understandably enthused by their findings, they did indicate that patients must also recognize the importance of acting quickly. Specifically, they must learn to recognize the symptoms of stroke -- face drooping, arm weakness, speech problems, etc. -- and call 911 as soon as possible to ensure that the proper treatment can be administered in time.

Have you or a loved one suffered a stroke? If so, what did your experience teach you?

Remember that if a neurological condition has left you disabled that you do have options for securing financial assistance. An experienced legal professional can discuss your rights and your options concerning Social Security disability benefits.

Source: USA Today, "Hospitals pushing faster stroke care get better results," Kim Painter, April 22, 2014

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