A Minute Saved to Stroke Treatment Could Add Days of Life

Small reductions in stroke treatment delay could add extra days of healthy life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is blocked. This is a serious medical issue, and when it comes to stroke treatment, time is of the essence.

A recent study found that a few minutes saved in administering thrombolysis (blood clot-busting medications) could mean extra days, weeks or months of disability-free life over a stroke patient's lifetime.

The researchers discovered that younger patients and women gained more from faster treatment over their lifetime.

"Seek treatment as soon as you notice stroke symptoms."

The lead author of this study was Atte Meretoja, MD, from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at Royal Melbourne Hospital of the University of Melbourne in Australia, and from the Department of Neurology at Helsinki University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland.

The study included 2,258 stroke patients treated with intravenous thrombolysis in Australian and Finnish Centers between March 1998 and December 2011. The average age of the participants was 70 years old, and 55 percent of the participants were male.

The findings showed that each minute thrombolysis was not delayed provided an average of 1.8 days of extra, disability-free life for all the participants.

For older, severe stroke patients, each minute provided 0.6 days of extra healthy life. For older, mild stroke patients, each minute provided 0.9 days.

For younger, mild stroke patients, each minute provided 2.7 days of extra healthy life. In younger, severe stroke patients, each minute granted 3.5 days.

Race, ethnicity and gender did not hinder the effectiveness of the treatment.

Dr. Meretoja and team found that the women gained slightly more time than the men over their lifetime.

Overall, each 15-minute decrease in treatment delay granted an average of one month of disability-free life. Treatment should be delivered within 4.5 hours of symptom onset, according to the researchers.

"In stroke treatment, every minute saved gives patients days of healthy life," Dr. Meretoja said. "Patients should never wait a single minute for stroke signs, such as face droop, arm weakness or speech disturbance, to go away. They should call for help immediately. Additionally, most emergency medical services and hospitals have the ability to reduce response and treatment delays significantly, and we have described how to do this."

Dr. Meretoja and colleagues noted that their data came from care centers that specifically focused on stroke thrombolysis, and that the severity of stroke damage was not able to be determined completely objectively.

Furthermore, the researchers' assumption of the thrombolysis effect was based off of data from multiple trials; the effectiveness could be different in a routine clinical practice setting.

The researchers also did not take into account the fact that reductions in delays could allow other patients who may otherwise have died to receive treatment.

Dr. Meretoja and team believe that these findings are generalizable to the United States population.

This study was published on March 13 in Stroke.

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Academy of Finland, Finnish Medical, Biomedicum Helsinki, the Sigrid Jusélius Foundations and Helsinki University Central Hospital provided funding.

Review Date: 
March 12, 2014
Last Updated:
March 16, 2014