ASA: Hospitals Embracing 'Drip and Ship' Stroke Protocol

More local hospitals comfortable giving tPA drip, then shipping patients to advanced centers

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- More community hospitals are giving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) medication to stroke victims, improving their chances of survival and recovery, new research indicates. The findings are to be presented Wednesday at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference, held from Feb. 11 to 13 in Nashville, Tenn., and published simultaneously Feb. 11 in Stroke.

These local hospitals are becoming more comfortable using tPA due to a new treatment scheme known as "drip and ship," study author Kevin Sheth, M.D., chief of the neurocritical care and emergency neurology division at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told HealthDay. "Drip and ship" means that front-line hospitals quickly administer tPA to people suffering an ischemic stroke, and then immediately transport them to a more advanced medical center with better stroke treatment facilities, Sheth explained.

Sheth and his team analyzed data on 44,667 ischemic stroke patients who received tPA within less than three hours at 1,440 hospitals between 2003 and 2010. Researchers compared "drip and ship" patients to those who received tPA at the hospital where they were admitted. The investigators found that 23.5 percent of patients receiving tPA quickly were treated using "drip and ship."

Until now, there had been no nationwide analysis to see whether community hospitals have accepted "drip and ship" as a treatment plan for stroke victims, Sheth said. Patients treated by "drip and ship" tended to be younger, more often male, and more often white, the study authors noted. Researchers also found that hospitals on the receiving end of "drip and ship" patients tended to have more beds, were more likely to be academic medical centers, more often had achieved certification as a designated stroke center, and maintained a higher volume of stroke cases per year. "I think we'll see even more 'drip and ship' in the coming years," Jeffrey Saver, M.D., director of the UCLA Comprehensive Stroke Center and spokesman for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, told HealthDay. "This study shows that it's a safe way to go."

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