ORLANDO, Feb. 5 -- There may be a lower cost solution to fighting stroke that doesn't involve new equipment or new therapies. Researchers say the formation of an acute stroke team (AST), comprised of stroke-savvy health professionals, can streamline stroke care in major medical centers.
The National Acute Stroke Team Group, based in Belle Mead, N.J., today announced the results of its survey at the American Heart Association's 23rd International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.
Researchers examined acute stroke teams at 47 medical centers and academic centers. Slightly over half (55 percent) of the ASTs cost $5,000 per year or less. Only 24 percent cost more than $10,000 per year. Almost all (97 percent) of the ASTs were led by a neurologist or neurosurgeon.
"While we do not have specific data that prove they are cost-effective, stroke teams certainly do not seem to create a large financial burden," says Mark Alberts, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke University. "The costs for most of these ASTs are very modest. In all cases, we found that the ASTs were helpful for using hyperacute therapies."
The survey found that acute stroke teams are a fairly recent phenomenon -- 83 percent of the ASTs began between 1994 and 1997. ASTs were called up to 15 times a week in some cases, with one or two calls per week being the most common response (29 percent). A large majority (83 percent) of the ASTs said they respond to a call within 10 minutes.
"One of the concepts behind a stroke team is that by doing something a lot, you can get better at it," says Alberts, director of the Stroke Acute Care Unit at Duke. "If you have a stroke team with a set group of staff, then those people will see the vast majority of strokes and they will improve their stroke care."