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Apr 30, 2014

U.S. Hospitals Improve Stroke Treatment

Stroke patients are receiving faster care than ever before, thanks to a national quality improvement initiative that could save thousands of lives.

Stroke patients are receiving faster care than ever before, thanks to a national quality improvement initiative that could save thousands of lives.

Organized by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, “Stroke” is a national initiative designed to provide more timely care for patients suffering from ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for 87% of the 795,000 strokes that occur annually in the United States. During ischemic stroke, blood flow to the brain is blocked and immediate treatment is crucial to survival.

The acronym FAST, which stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911 for help, has helped patients recognize the sudden symptoms of stroke and seek immediate treatment. But that’s only part of the solution for improving outcomes for stroke patients.

Research shows that upon hospitalization, stroke patients don’t always receive the timely care needed to improve outcomes. That’s why in 2010, the “Stroke” initiative was created to help hospitals provide more immediate treatment for stroke patients. One of the program’s key goals was to improve administration of tPA (intravenous tissue plasminogen activator), a protein proven to improve outcomes when administered within an hour of hospitalization for ischemic stroke. And according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the “Stroke” initiative has already made significant progress in improving stroke treatment nationwide.

Using data from more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals, researchers analyzed 71,169 patients treated with tPA for ischemic stroke. They compared recent statistics (2010-2013) with data from 2003-2009 to see if implementation of the “Stroke” initiative in 2010 helped improve outcomes. After analysis, researchers found significant improvements in the proportion of patients receiving optimal treatment for stroke (tPA administration within 60 minutes of hospitalization). Before the “Stroke” intervention, only 26.5% of patients received optimal treatment compared to 41% following the quality improvement initiative.  Researchers also found that this change in treatment helped improve outcomes, improving survival rates and reducing complications from stroke.

Findings help demonstrate the tremendous value of quality improvement initiatives like “Stroke” to improve care. Simply put, improving treatment for stroke could save thousands of lives and drastically improve quality of life for stroke survivors. Quality improvement initiatives help ensure that patients always receive the best care possible and expansion of such programs is essential to improving health care in the United States.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are quality improvement initiatives in health care?
  • Quality improvement initiatives are designed to improve the quality of care that patients receive. The goals of such programs are to ensure the highest possible standard of care and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.
  • What are the different types of stroke?
  • Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is reduced or blocked. There are three different types of stroke, including ischemic, hemorrhagic, and TIA (transient ischemic attack). Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and occurs when a clot obstructs blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. TIA is often called a “mini stroke,” and occurs when a blood clot temporarily blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

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