TV Ads on Stroke's Warning Signs Can Improve Care

Better education gets people to the hospital more quickly, study finds

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THURSDAY, May 31, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Television advertising campaigns to raise public awareness about stroke symptoms appear to be working, boosting the number of stroke patients who receive hospital treatment more quickly, a Canadian study finds.

Two public awareness campaigns that targeted adults age 45 and older in the province of Ontario ran from October 2003 to June 2004, and from December 2004 to July 2005. The TV ads informed viewers about the five warning signs of stroke -- sudden weakness, sudden trouble speaking, sudden vision problems, sudden severe headache, sudden dizziness -- and encouraged viewers to call 911 or their local emergency number if they experienced any symptoms.

Researchers with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario conducted random telephone polls to gauge viewer awareness of the ads. The researchers also analyzed emergency department visits for stroke from a few months before the first ad campaign started until a few months after the end of the second campaign.

They concluded that the ad campaigns brought about a 10 percent overall increase in stroke patients being treated at hospital emergency departments, a 15 percent increase in stroke patients who arrived at hospital within five hours after the onset of symptoms, and a five percent increase in those who arrived within two-and-a-half hours.

There was also a 30 percent increase in emergency department visits for transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "mini stroke."

"Because the warning signs of TIA are temporary, many people don't seek immediate medical attention," study lead investigator Corinne Hodgson, a consulting epidemiologist for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, said in a prepared statement.

"Getting more people with TIAs to emergency departments is a critical opportunity for stroke prevention, because TIA is often a precursor to major stroke," Hodgson said.

The study is published in the journal Stroke.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke warning signs.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 31, 2007

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