Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Too Few Patients Call an Ambulance after Suffering a Stroke: Study

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Too Few Patients Call an Ambulance after Suffering a Stroke: Study

Article excerpt

Too few patients call 911 after stroke: study


TORONTO - Many people who suffer a stroke are still waiting too long to seek care and too few are turning to the best first option when they do, a new study suggests.

The work, based on four years of stroke care data gathered in Ontario, shows that more than one in three people who experience a stroke don't arrive at the hospital by ambulance.

Calling 911 is the appropriate response to signs or symptoms of strokes, experts say.

"Call an ambulance," said Patrice Lindsay, director of performance and standards for the Canadian Stroke Network, and a stroke survivor.

"When you start having a stroke, you can get very sick very quickly," she said. "By calling an ambulance, you get faster service in the right place."

That's because the goal isn't just to get to a hospital, it's to get to a hospital that can treat a stroke patient.

Showing up at a small hospital without a CT scanner -- a piece of imaging equipment that is critical for stroke diagnosis and care -- means the patient will need to be transferred or redirected to a facility that can handle acute stroke cases. And that means added delay, Lindsay said.

Ambulance staff are trained to assess patients for the telltale signs of stroke. If they see signs like drooping muscles on one side of the face, or weakness on one side of the body, they will "scoop and run," she said.

Lindsay says ambulances will also call ahead so the receiving hospital can arrange to free up a CT scanner and have a stroke team on hand when the patient arrives.

The aim is to diagnose and start treatment for the stroke within a critical window of time -- 4.5 hours. Within that time frame, doctors can give clot-busting drugs that can significantly lessen the damage of a stroke.

The medical community uses the adage "time is brain" -- referring to the fact that clot-busters administered within those first few hours can significantly reduce the volume of brain that sustains damage, thereby reducing the risk of permanent disability. …

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