Stroke Survivors 'Can Lose A Month Of Healthy Life Due To Clot-Buster Delay', Research Says

How A 15-Minute Delay Can Affect Stroke Victims

Eliminating the delays of clot-busting drug reception can be life changing for stroke survivors, according to new research, as for every 15-minute delay they can lose a month of healthy life.

Experts found that cutting the time it takes for people to receive the drug by just one minute leads to at least one one less day of disability for those suffering a stroke.

They examined the role of plasminogen activator (tPA), which is commonly known in the UK as alteplase.

Alteplase is a drug for people who have suffered an acute ischaemic stroke - which account for 80% of all strokes.

These strokes happen because of a blockage in an artery and are different to strokes caused by a bleed in the brain.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in 2012 said alteplase - a "thrombolytic" drug - was an effective treatment for dissolving blood clots and should be given as soon as possible to those suffering an acute ischaemic stroke.

It warned that the drug should be given no more than 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms begin.

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Today's research, published in the journal Stroke, from the American Heart Association, found that reducing delays by just a few minutes could lead to big gains in terms of healthy living.

Researchers found that people who were aged 80 and had suffered a severe stroke could get half a day of healthy living extra for every minute of reduced delay in getting treatment.

Those the same age with a mild stroke could enjoy almost a full extra day while those aged about 50 with a mild stroke would gain almost six extra days.

The researchers, including from the University of Melbourne, said that across the entire sample of more than 2,200 people "each 15 minute decrease in treatment delay provided an average equivalent of one month of additional disability-free life."

They concluded: "Realistically achievable small reductions in stroke thrombolysis delays would result in significant and robust average health benefits over patients' lifetimes."

Dr Atte Meretoja, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurology at the University of Melbourne, said: "'Save a minute, save a day' is the message from our study, which examined how even small reductions in treatment delays might benefit patients measurably in the long run.

"Clot-busting treatment works equally well, irrespective of race, ethnicity or gender.

"Speedy restoration of blood flow to the brain is crucial for brain cell survival everywhere."

He said the world's fastest stroke services in Helsinki, Finland and Melbourne, Australia, take an average of 20 minutes from hospital arrival to start of treatment.

Meanwhile, most American, Australian and European hospitals take 70 to 80 minutes, he said.

Figures for England suggest that three-quarters of patients eligible for clot-busting drugs receive them.

Data for July to September 2013 shows that it took an average of two hours and 25 minutes for people to receive the drugs from the onset of their symptoms.

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The typical time it took from a patient arriving at hospital to receiving the drugs was 59 minutes.

Dr Shamim Quadir, research communications manager at the Stroke Association, said: "These findings suggest that just a minute saved in delivering clot-busting drugs could add almost two days of healthy living to stroke patients' lives.

"In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it currently takes an average 59 minutes for stroke patients to receive clot-busting treatment.

"However, a much faster average response time (of about 29 minutes) is achieved by stroke services at the Royal London Hospital, while stroke services in Helsinki, Finland, and Melbourne, Australia, have an average response time of 20 to 25 minutes.

"If our national average response time could be improved by 40 minutes, we could significantly reduce the level of disability for stroke survivors.

"This research highlights the message that time lost is brain lost. When someone has a stroke it is vital that they get to a specialist stroke unit as soon as possible.

"We believe that every step on the road to recovery from stroke matters - and that journey should begin when you call 999."

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