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New Guidelines Released for Stroke Care

FRIDAY Jan. 14, 2011 -- Improving how quickly stroke patients are diagnosed and treated is the cornerstone of a new set of recommendations from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

The recommendations are designed to improve the quality of care for patients with stroke, a life-threatening emergency that involves the sudden death of brain cells. The guidelines cover both ischemic stroke (caused by decreased blood supply to part of the brain, which usually occurs when a blood vessel is blocked) and hemorrhagic stroke (caused by bleeding in the brain).

The new measures include:

  • Tracking the percentage of ischemic stroke patients who are eligible for treatment with the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and treated within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital. The drug is only effective if given within a few hours after stroke onset.
  • Tracking the time from hospitalization to treatment to repair blood vessels for patients with a ruptured brain aneurysm, a bulge in an artery caused by a weakened artery wall.
  • Performing 90-day follow-up of ischemic stroke patients to assess their outcome after acute interventions, including treatment with tPA.

The recommendations -- based on previous initiatives such as the "Get With the Guidelines" program -- lay the groundwork for future certification of Comprehensive Stroke Centers.

Comprehensive Stroke Centers would be expected to track the new measures, along with the standard measures now required for Primary Stroke Centers.

"By using our [measures] as part of quality improvement efforts, over time hospitals should be able to improve the quality of the care that they give and improve patient outcomes," Dr. Dana Leifer, an associate professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, said in a heart association news release.

"The American Heart Association's 2020 goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, as well as to continue to reduce deaths by cardiac diseases and stroke by 20 percent," Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, said in the same news release. "Initiatives such as primary and now comprehensive stroke center certification will greatly help us reach our 2020 goal."

The guidelines and scientific statement appear in the Jan. 13 issue of Stroke.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.

Posted: January 2011


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