TUESDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-third of people having a stroke don't call 911, even though that's the fastest route to potentially lifesaving treatment, a new study reports.
"Prompt diagnosis and early management is essential to decrease morbidity and mortality after stroke," said lead researcher Dr. James Ekundayo, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
"If about one-third does not arrive by ambulance, the implication is that they will have delayed evaluation and treatment with lifesaving drugs," Ekundayo said.
For patients with ischemic stroke -- a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain -- prior research has shown that administration of clot-busting drugs within two hours of symptom onset greatly reduces the odds of disability three months later. Ischemic stroke is more common than hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain.
The study -- published April 29 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes -- looked at how more than 200,000 stroke patients arrived at hospital emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010. About 64 percent arrived by ambulance and the rest used other forms of transportation, the researchers found.
Patients who used emergency medical services (EMS) had shorter pre-hospital and in-hospital delays, the study found. "They arrived early, had prompter evaluation and received more rapid treatment," Ekundayo said.
Time to treatment is faster partly because EMS notifies the receiving hospital about the patient, "and the emergency room staff is ready to act as soon as the patient arrives," Ekundayo added. EMS teams also know which hospitals have advanced stroke care and can take patients directly there.
Calls to EMS were less frequent among minority groups and in rural areas, the researchers fo
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