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Stroke centers have better rates of patient survival, researchers say

January 25, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Stroke patients should be transported to designated stroke centers.
Stroke patients should be transported to designated stroke centers. (Steve Osman / Los Angeles…)

Stroke patients are more likely to survive if they are treated at a designated stroke center -- hospitals that have received certification for state-of-the-art stroke care by The Joint Commission, an agency that accredits healthcare organizations, researchers reported Tuesday.

About 700 of the nation's 5,000 acute-care hospitals are accredited stroke centers, but there has been a lack of evidence to support that patients at designated stroke centers are better off.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., examined that question. Researchers looked at death rates for people who had acute ischemic stroke -- a stroke caused by a blockage -- between 2005 and 2006 at various hospitals. The death rate at 30 days following the stroke was 10.1% for patients who went to a stroke center and 12.5% for patients who went to non-designated centers. Use of emergency therapies to dissolve a blood clot -- a treatment that must take place within a few hours of the stroke -- was 4.8% at the stroke centers and 1.7% at other hospitals. The study was headed by researchers at Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina.

While the differences in outcomes were modest, the study shows that patients who appear to be having a stroke should be taken by paramedics to the nearest accredited stroke center, said Dr. Mark J. Alberts, in an editorial accompanying the study. Alberts is a stroke specialist with Northwestern University School of Medicine.

Related: What matters in stroke treatment? Location, location, location

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