Matter of life or death: Treating strokes just minutes sooner ‘could save lives’

A new study found that initiating stroke treatment just 15 minutes quicker is enough to prevent death and protect against disability. Source: Getty

Around 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke each year and while millions die or become permanently disabled as a result, new research claims initiating stroke treatment just 15 minutes quicker could save lives and prevent disability.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and happens if an artery is blocked or bursts. The new study, conducted by researchers from UCLA and published in the JAMA Journal, examined 6,756 patients who experienced ischaemic strokes – where the stroke was caused by a blocked artery.

Researchers investigated each stroke patient’s treatment results in light of their arrival at hospital and the time that treatment began – known as door-to-puncture time. For every 1,000 patients whose door-to-puncture time was 15 minutes sooner, 15 fewer people died or were discharged to hospice care.

It was also found that 17 more people were able to walk out of hospital without assistance and 22 more could care for themselves when they were discharged from hospital. The median time for patients arriving at hospital to the beginning of their treatment was one hour and 27 minutes, while the median time from the onset of symptoms to treatment was three hours and 50 minutes.

All patients in the study were treated with endovascular reperfusion therapy – which is used to treat strokes that occur as a result of a blockage in one of the brain’s major arteries. Around 87 per cent of all strokes experienced are ischaemic strokes, but people can experience other strokes including haemorrhagic strokes (where the artery bursts) or transient ischemic attacks (also known as mini strokes).

Read more: What are strokes and how to prevent them

The study is one of the biggest to find that earlier stroke treatment could save lives and that just 15 minutes is enough to improve outcomes in stroke patients. It also found that hospitals which perform endovascular reperfusion therapy on more than 50 patients each year are more likely to start treatment faster than hospitals that perform fewer than 30.

Researchers said initial treatment tends to be delayed during hospital ‘off hours’ such as weekends, holidays, before 7am or after 6pm. Living alone or people failing to recognise their own stroke symptoms can also delay treatment.

“We’re trying to improve treatment with better staffing on off hours and getting doctors to the hospital quicker when they’re on call,” co-lead author Reza Jahan said in a statement. “Patients who arrive at the hospital at 2 am. should be treated no differently than people who arrive at 2pm.”

The Stroke Foundation Australia recommends everyone becoming familiar with the F.A.S.T test to recognise the common signs of a stroke. F stands for face and it’s important to check if the mouth has drooped. A stands for arms because in many cases, stroke victims won’t be able to lift their arms.

S stands for speech, so if a person’s speech is slurred, you’re having trouble understanding them or they can’t understand you, it could be a vital sign. T stands for time, which is critical if someone is suffering a stroke. An ambulance should be called immediately if any of the symptoms occur.

In addition to death, a stroke can result in a number of physical and mental health issues and can leave many unable to live independently or requiring extensive rehabilitation to get back on their feet.

Read more: What happens to your health after a stroke

Do you know someone who’s been impacted by a stroke? How quickly did they receive treatment after first noticing symptoms?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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