A study has suggested that each 15-minute delay in receiving a drug to remove clots could cause a stroke patient to lose one month of healthy life.
Alteplase, a clot removal drug, is normally administered to patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke which is caused by a blockage in an artery. This is administered upon their arrival at the hospital, however, there are large variances in the time it takes to first administer the drug.
Sir Bruce Keogh, the Medical Director of the NHS, has previously called upon adequate paramedic training to administer drugs for stroke as this will speed up the process. However, charities have issued a warning about the difficulty of recognising a brain bleed from an ischemic stroke. A brain bleed may be worsened by administering the drug.
New research has however shown that the reduction of delays by mere minutes could offer large gains. Researchers have also found that quick blood flow restoration to the brain is critical for the survival of brain cells. The clot-busting treatment methods have been known to work equally well, regardless of the patient’s gender, ethnicity or race.
Data available in the UK for the period July to September 2013 has indicated that it takes around two hours and 25 minutes for victims of strokes to receive the clot-busting, from the first sign of the symptoms. The average time for a patient arriving at the hospital to receiving the drug was found to be 59 minutes.
In Australia and Finland, the average time from arriving at the hospital to receiving the drug is 20 minutes.
The results of the study indicated that people aged 80 who had suffered a severe stroke an extra half a day of healthy living could be gained for each minute of reduced delay in getting the drug. People aged 80 who have had a mild stroke could gain one whole day, and those aged around 50 who have experienced a mild stroke could gain the equivalent of almost six days.
Charities believe that if the average response time nationally could be improved by around 40 minutes, the level of disability that stroke survivors suffer could be reduced greatly.
The Royal College of Physicians has stated that patients who are taken directly to a specialist centre face a better clinical outcome.
Image credit: Tanel Teemusk