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“Every minute counts.” – Study shows why treating strokes immediately is vital

Outcomes are positive in 76% more cases if strokes are treated within three hours.

TREATING A STROKE patient quickly after the event can dramatically reduce long-term disability, according to new research.

Analysis carried out in the UK and published in The Lancet journal has shown that treatment to break up or dissolve blood clots can lead to a good outcome in 75% more cases if administered within three hours of initial stroke symptoms.

The study shows that many more stroke patients could benefit from the thrombolytic treatment but stresses that the effectiveness of the the clot-busting drug alteplase diminishes sharply in the hours following a stroke.

The findings show just how important it is for people with acute ischaemic stroke (in which blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked or reduced) to be identified quickly and treated by specialist staff.

The study was conducted in nine separate trials involving 6,756 patients.

The odds of a good stroke outcome were 75% greater for patients given alteplase within three hours of initial stroke symptoms, compared with those who did not receive the drug.

For those given the drug between three and four-and-a-half hours post-stroke, there was a 26% increased chance of a good outcome. Those with a delay of more than that in receiving treatment, there was just a 15% increase in the chance of a good recovery, a rate not even statistically significant.

“What this shows is that we are up against the clock when treating ischaemic stroke,” explains Kennedy Lees of the University of Glasgow.

Every minute counts. People need to be identified quickly and systems need to be in place to get them scanned, diagnosed accurately, and then treated within minutes to hours.

The research also significantly pointed out that the benefits were in all the patient groups, including those aged above 80 and those with severe strokes.

Over 1,700 of the patients who were part of the study were over 80 years of age and the authors of the report say that the positive results for show that there should not be upper age limits in clinical trials.

Opinion: How one country saw epidemic illnesses plummet – and Ireland could too >

Read: Half of stroke patients suffer depression or anxiety and most don’t get help >

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Rónán Duffy

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