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Patients Do Better at Hospitals That Follow Stroke Guidelines
Date:2/22/2010

Chances of survival were higher, study shows

MONDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients taken to hospitals that follow specific treatment protocols may have a better chance of surviving than patients taken elsewhere, new research suggests.

The study looked at the first one million stroke patients treated at hospitals enrolled in the "Get With The Guidelines" stroke program, launched in 2003 by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

The guidelines require that hospitals follow seven specific steps for treating stroke patients, including administering clot-dissolving medications within three hours of the start of symptoms and anti-platelet medications (such as aspirin) in the first 48 hours.

Between 2003 and 2009, hospitals that followed the protocols lowered the risk of death by 10 percent for patients who had an ischemic stroke, the most common type, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), considered a precursor to a full-blown stroke.

"There have been remarkable improvements in quality of care delivered and outcomes," said study author Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. "For individuals having a stroke, coming to one of the 'Get With The Guidelines'-participating hospitals means there is a far greater likelihood they will receive evidence-based therapies that can reduce the risk of long-term disability, deaths and recurrent events."

The study is published in the Feb. 22 online issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Each year, more than 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke and another 200,000 to 500,000 have a TIA, the study authors noted. But across the nation, stroke treatment was inconsistent among hospitals and physicians, and not everyone was getting optimal care based on what research showed worked best.

"Early in the program, there were gaps i
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