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Medical experts urge 'stroke centers' for hospitals
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying fast, effective treatment could reduce the number of deaths and disabilities from strokes, a coalition of medical groups is urging all U.S. hospitals to establish special centers for such victims.
Comparing them to emergency rooms, the medical experts said that such centers would operate under a set of guidelines designed to standardize the acute care available to stroke patients, and improve the level of specialized attention that victims receive. Rapid treatments of strokes is often critical for a patient's recovery
The recommendations from the so-called "Brain Attack Coalition" appear in this week's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Some of these key elements include establishment of a stroke team that's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week" said Dr. Mark Alberts, of Duke University's Medical Center. The requirements for a stroke center would also include written protocols, well-trained emergency medical personnel, and the immediate availability of sophisticated brain scans.
One study found that likelihood of death or a "negative outcome" was cut by more than 25 percent among patients who were treated at a stroke center.
There are currently about a dozen major stroke centers across the country, clustered in major academic medical schools such as Duke, Harvard and Yale.
The JAMA article, Alberts said, is a first step toward setting national criteria, especially in what is known as the "stroke belt," which covers the southeastern United States. Alberts said that area has the highest stroke rate in the country, a fact he attributed to several reasons, including racial makeup, diabetes, smoking, poor diet and hypertension.
The goal he says, is to expand that number of stroke centers by a few hundred and, eventually, a few thousand.
"Our goal is to move to the next step whereby some community hospitals, small urban hospitals and even rural hospitals could have the necessary infrastructure and expertise, emergency personnel and transportation skills to fulfill the recommendation for a primary stroke center, " Alberts said.
JAMA editorial calls for better use of new stroke drug
American Medical Association
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