Few Stroke Patients Given Clot-Buster Quickly Enough: Study

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Few eligible stroke patients get an injectable clot-busting drug within the recommended 60-minute window after their hospital arrival, new research finds. "It has been widely recommended that the 'door-to-needle' time should be 60 minutes," said study author Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. The phrase refers to the timeframe between when the patient arrives at the hospital and when that patient is given the clot-buster, known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).

In his analysis of stroke patients from 1,083 hospitals, he found the 60-minute window was not the typical reality. "That occurs only in 26.6 percent of patients," he said. Fonarow was slated to present the findings Thursday at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles; the research is being published simultaneously in the journal Circulation. Perhaps even more surprising, the hospitals in the study were all participating in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Get with The Guidelines-Stroke quality improvement program, which recommends early tPA administration.

"It involved some of the largest, best-known hospitals for stroke care," Fonarow said. The study looked at more than 25,500 patients who had suffered ischemic stroke in which a blood clot obstructs blood flow and had been treated with tPA within three hours of the start of symptoms. Just 6,790 got the intravenous drug within 60 minutes. During the course of the study, there was only modest improvement in the hospitals' track records.

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