Paramedics Skilled at Identifying Stroke

Stroke successfully pinpointed by most medics

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(RxWiki News) When it comes to identifying strokes in emergency situations, paramedics are usually right when they pinpoint a patient suspected of having a stroke. A recent study revealed they could predict them with accuracy of 99.3 percent.

The findings suggest emergency medical services personnel are highly trained in recognizing stroke, which benefits patients who can be offered treatment en route to the hospital.

"Seek immediate treatment for stroke symptoms."

Dr. Michael Schneck, a co-author of the study and a professor of neurology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and medical director of the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit, noted that if a paramedic believes a patient is having a stroke, that should act as a reliable indicator that a hospital should activate their stroke team.

During the study, researchers reviewed the records of 5,300 patients transported to Loyola by paramedics between October 2010 and June 2011. Paramedics were nearly always right in identifying stroke, though their sensitivity rate was only 51 percent, meaning they missed identifying strokes in some patients.

Of 96 actual strokes, paramedics accurately identified 49 cases, but missed 47. They were most likely to miss identifying a stroke in patients under the age of 45.

Tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) can be used to dissolve clots in some patients suffering a stroke as a result of a blood clot in the brain. Hospitals such as Loyola have been looking for methods to ensure that patients who need the treatment receive it sooner by asking paramedics to radio ahead when they are bring in a suspected stroke patient. This ensures a stroke team is ready to confirm the suspicion with a CT scan when the patient arrives at the medical center.

Though paramedics were not able to accurately identify all strokes, researchers said the findings give a current snapshot of EMS capabilities.

"Sensitivity of EMS impression of stroke still requires improvement to reduce time to treatment for acute stroke patients," researchers wrote.

The research, considered preliminary because it has not yet been published, will be presented in late April at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in New Orleans.

Last Updated:
March 29, 2012