Just 15 minutes can make a difference when someone is struck by a stroke, new research suggests.
The study included more than 6 700 patients in the United States and Canada who suffered an ischaemic stroke (blocked blood flow to the brain) and were treated with anti-clotting therapy.
A need for speed
For every 1 000 patients whose treatment began 15 minutes sooner after their arrival at the hospital, 15 fewer died or required hospice care after leaving the hospital, 17 more were able to walk out of the hospital without help, and 22 more could care for themselves after leaving the hospital.
The median time from arrival at the hospital to the start of treatment was 1 hour 27 minutes, and the median time from the start of stroke symptoms to treatment was 3 hours 50 minutes, the investigators found.
The researchers also found that the start of treatment tends to take longer for stroke patients who arrive at hospitals on weekends, holidays, and before 7am and after 6pm on weekdays.
"We're trying to improve treatment with better staffing on off-hours and getting doctors to the hospital quicker when they're on call," said study co-lead author Dr Reza Jahan, a professor of interventional neuroradiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Patients who arrive at the hospital at 2am should be treated no differently than people who arrive at 2pm," Jahan added in a university news release.
The researchers also found that treatment delays are more likely for patients who live alone or fail to recognise that they're having a stroke, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study results prompted the American Heart Association to publish new goals on how fast patients should be treated at comprehensive stroke centres, according to Jahan.
Each year, about 795 000 people in the United States suffer a stroke, and about 140 000 die. Ischaemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes.
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