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'Stroke Centers' Providing Better Care, Study Finds
Date:1/26/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Designated stroke centers seem to be saving lives, new research finds.

Patients with ischemic stroke (involving a blood clot to the brain) were more likely to get appropriate medication and survive if treated at one of these specialty centers than at a "regular" hospital, according to a study published in the Jan. 26 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reviewing records for almost 31,000 patients, the study found that stroke center patients had about a 20 percent lower risk of death over 30 days than patients treated at non-stroke centers, a difference the authors characterized as modest.

"Any statistically significant improvement in mortality, small, modest or large, is important and the 15 to 20 percent reduction is about as good as the mortality prevention efforts that we've seen in stroke," said study co-author, Dr. Robert Holloway, a neurologist at University of Rochester Medical Center. "This is a fairly robust and important finding," he added.

The Joint Commission began certifying U.S. stroke centers in 2003. They were modeled after trauma centers, and the purpose was to "create organizations and coordination of care to improve patient outcomes," Holloway explained. "[There are] requirements that hospitals need to achieve and a process in place that hopefully will result in better outcomes over time."

About 900 hospitals are certified nationwide, including 200 identified through state designation programs. Prior to this study, it was unknown if the centers were actually saving lives, according to background information in the study.

The researchers analyzed 2005-2006 data from a New York State database, which followed outcomes of patients after stroke. New York has its own program to designate stroke centers.

About half of the patients who had acute ischemic stroke were sent to
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