Although emergency room visits are often expensive and may not be necessary for every condition, they number approximately 110 million each year in the United States. But not every medical facility is created equal; each has its own specialists, which can make it difficult for patients to know where to go in the event of an emergency. But now, if Alabama residents suffer from symptoms of a stroke, the state has made it a bit simpler for residents to get the caliber of care they need.
The Alabama Department of Public Health says that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in the state. The ADPH and the Office of Emergency Medical Services have launched the Statewide Stroke System in response, which is meant to provide quicker help to patients who exhibit symptoms of an impending stroke. The system is also designed to work with the Alabama Trauma Communications System, which helps medical personnel and hospital facilities route patients to the centers that are best equipped to provide care for a particular situation.
All told, more than 60 Alabama hospitals, as well as five in bordering states, have applied to participate in the program. They will have to subsequently fulfill inspection requirements in order to be entered into the system as a stroke hospital. Officials say that the new system represents a way to improve the quality of life for area residents.
In a state health department release, Acting State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris explained:
“This system presents a greatly enhanced opportunity to improve stroke care. One of the most frustrating things to a physician is when a patient presents to the hospital too late to qualify for stroke treatment. Early evaluation and treatment is vital, so we want to ensure that any patient experiencing stroke symptoms can be transported to the closest hospital with the appropriate treatment available.”
This improved system isn’t the only way stroke care is changing. Immediate treatment, of course, is vital for stroke patients, but a new study has found that standard treatment guidelines may have a lot of room for advancement. In that study, researchers compared the results of standard procedures and guidelines for stroke to a newer procedure called endovascular clot removal therapy, or a thrombectomy. Although urinary catheters have been used for more than 3,500 years to empty the bladder, catheters are used for a very different purpose in this medical treatment. In this new procedure, a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery before being threaded through the aorta and into the cerebral arteries, where the catheter locates the blood clot that caused the stroke.
The results of the study were quite extraordinary. Of the patients who received a thrombectomy, 48.6% were able to perform independent daily activities just 90 days after undergoing treatment. In contrast, only 13.1% of patients who received the standard medical treatment for stroke were able to do the same.
These results applied to patients with minimal stroke damage, but the procedure’s promise could be huge for the medical community, particularly because the study showed that clot removal may be beneficial up to 24 hours after a stroke (as compared to the idea that clots must be removed within six hours of an episode). Now, the procedure will be tested on a more expansive subject pool, which may provide valuable information about how to implement this procedure in a typical clinical setting.
It may be a while before the thrombectomy will become standard medical practice, however. In the meantime, Alabama residents will be able to receive speedier care from their network of hospitals, which can make a colossal difference in recovery.