Hospital stroke centers are saving lives, according to the latest findings.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. To improve treatment of stroke victims, a U.S. accreditation group certifies hospitals as designated stroke centers if they meet certain standards.
In a study of more than 30,000 stroke patients seen in hospitals, researcher Ying Xian of Duke University found they were more likely to get critical, blood clot-dissolving medicines at a designated stroke center.
"And more importantly, we found that patients who were treated at stroke centers, they are less likely to die than patients in non-certified hospitals," he says.
Hospitals certified as Primary Stroke Centers by The Joint Commission, an independent, non-governmental agency, have to meet certain standards, such as following recommended treatment procedures and monitoring performance to improve treatment.
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Designated stroke centers focus on starting treatment as soon as possible after the patient arrives at the hospital, "and those people are organized and coordinated so they can provide timely care to stroke patients."
Emergency services outside the hospital also play a key role, Xian says. Patients may be more likely to survive a stroke if ambulance crews take them to a certified facility, even if it takes a bit longer to get there.
Xian is originally from China, and he concedes that advanced stroke treatment facilities may not always be available in poorer countries. That makes it all the more important, he says, to reduce the risk of stroke in the first place by focusing on reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, and other risk factors.