FRIDAY, July 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke victims still aren't getting treated soon enough, a new study suggests.
Treating strokes quickly is critical, because the more time that elapses, the less effective stroke treatment may be, the researchers explained.
A number of factors have reduced the time it takes stroke patients to get treatment. These include greater public awareness, better emergency dispatch procedures and improvements in hospital stroke units, the researchers said. But, delays in transporting stroke patients from regional hospitals to comprehensive stroke centers are still common, the team found.
"Stroke requires a multi-disciplinary team that engages in a nuanced chain of events leading to treatment, and efficient and prompt patient transport via emergency medical services [EMS] is a significant link in the process," study author Dr. Michael Froehler, neurointerventionalist at the Cerebrovascular Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery news release.
"Within the broader stroke community, we've definitely made progress in our systems of care that ensure an increasing number of patients receive treatment as quickly as possible. But we need to do more," he added.
In conducting the study, researchers recorded the amount of time it took to transfer 70 patients from hospitals that were not equipped to handle all levels of stroke to major stroke centers. Over the course of one year, they found transfer times ranged between 46 and 133 minutes. Those times were longer than it would have taken to drive the distance between the facilities, the researchers noted.
Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, the researchers said. Stroke cost about $54 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity in 2010 alone. Disability-related health care expenses resulting from strokes also cost $74 billion each year, they noted.
The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery in San Francisco. Findings from meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Stroke Association provides more information on stroke treatment.