Stroke teams double access to fast care without higher costs

SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 7 Twice as many acute stroke patients receive effective medication when dedicated stroke teams are available in hospital emergency rooms, according to research presented today at the American Stroke Associations 27th International Stroke Conference. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association.

The improved access to treatment did not cost more; neither were the in-hospital costs any higher for patients treated by stroke teams, say researchers.

The thrombolytic (clot-busting) drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only early treatment for acute ischemic stroke approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It must be given within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. It helps restore blood flow to areas of the brain and surrounding blood vessels affected by an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are caused by blockages in an artery to the brain.

We know thrombolytics are effective and this study suggests that thrombolytics have the potential to be used more often with a stroke team in place, says Brett C. Meyer, M.D., the studys lead author and an assistant professor of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.

Investigators compared tPA use during a two-year period at the San Diego Medical Center and neighboring hospitals. In the first year, from July 1999 through June 2000, a stroke team was not available for emergency stroke care. Patients were evaluated by the general neurology team. In the second year, from July 2000 through June 2001, a dedicated stroke team was in place. The stroke team consisted of neurologists and physicians specially trained in stroke treatment and faculty on 24-hour call for evaluation and treatment of stroke patients.

Thrombolytics were administered 12 times (about once each month) in the year without a stroke team; tPA use increased to 25 times (about 2.1 times each month) in the year with the specialized

Contact: Bridgette McNeill or Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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