Stroke patient mortality rates better at 'designated centers'

Patients sent to regular hospitals for ischemic stroke are more likely to die than their counterparts sent to designated stroke centers according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The finding shouldn't come as a surprise, considering a similar study of a Canadian program, conducted in October 2009, produced the same result.

Out of records reviewed for nearly 31,000 patients, about half were sent to such accredited hospitals; 10.1 percent of those patients died, according to researchers, while 12.5 percent of the patients sent to other facilities died.

That may have been attributable to the fact that, at the designated stroke facilities, according to the Los Angeles Times, stroke patients received appropriate "clot-busting" medication (thrombolytic therapy) 4.8 percent of the time. Only 1.7 percent of stroke patients received the same medication at regular hospitals.

Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, a professor of neurology and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the University of Alabama, told HealthDay News that, while the study was helpful, he would like to also see statistics other than mortality rate. Alexandrov was not a part of the study.

"Death is not the wors[t] outcome in stroke," he said. "What we would really like to know is, are we reducing the number of people with really severe disability that leaves you bedridden? That's the target."

Dr. Mark Alberts, a stroke specialist with Northwestern University School of Medicine who wrote a commentary that accompanied the study, said he thought that stroke patients or paramedics treating such patients should seek out treatment at accredited stroke centers, despite the "modest" outcomes, reports the Times.

To learn more:
- here's the JAMA study (registration required)
- here's the accompanying commentary (registration required)
- read this Los Angeles Times post
- check out the HealthDay News piece