‘Disappointing’ care failing thousands of stroke patients

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Thousands of deaths and disabilities caused by strokes in Australia could have been avoided with better care and facilities, according to a new audit by the Stroke Foundation.

The study surveyed more than 30,000 stroke admissions to more than 120 hospitals in 2016 and found many patients were “denied best practice.”

Only 36 percent of stroke victims are reaching hospital within the crucial 4.5-hour window in order to receive essential ‘clot-busting’ medication, and just 30 percent received the medication within an hour of arriving at hospital – compared with 59 percent in the US and 62 percent in the UK.

The medication, called thrombolysis, acts by dissolving clots of blood disrupting blood flow to the brain. The sooner it is administered after a stroke, the better the chances of recovery.

But the audit found the potentially life-saving medication is only being used in 13 percent of eligible cases Australia-wide – although this is up from seven percent in 2015.

This is despite it being available in more than 70 percent of hospitals in the country.

The report also found a “significant disparity” between regional and metro areas, with less than half of regional victims receiving care from a dedicated stroke unit, compared to more than 75 percent in metro areas.

Australians in regional areas were 19 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than city-dwellers, according to the audit.

Sharon McGowan, CEO of the Stroke Foundation, said there is a lot of work to be done to achieve best practice.

“Surviving and living well after stroke should not be determined by your post code,” she said.

“Australia has one of the most advanced trauma systems in the world, we need to apply the same thinking to emergency stroke treatment to ensure people living in regional and rural Australia have the best chance of making a meaningful recovery after a stroke.”

But there’s a silver lining: the report found the number of stroke units Australia-wide had increased from 87 in 2015 to 95 this year, and the use of thrombolysis increased from only 7 percent in 2015.

Ms McGowan says improvements to stroke care can be achieved.

“Stroke is a serious medical emergency which requires urgent attention, but with the right treatment at the right time many people are able to recover,” she said.

“We [must] ensure every patient with a stroke has a clear pathway to stroke treatment, whether that be at the regional hospital, utilising telehealth, or transported to the nearest comprehensive stroke service.

“This means clear processes between ambulances, emergency departments and stroke units enabling patients to be diagnosed and provided with appropriate treatment quickly,” she said.

Check out our upcoming first aid courses in which you will learn how to see a stroke and treat. www.canberrafirstaid.com

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