750,000 Americans will have a stroke or brain attack this year

Three quarters of a million Americans will have a stroke or brain attack this year, according to the National Stroke Association.

Today researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine reported findings that suggest that not all stroke patients have equal access to the only Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acute ischemic stroke treatment.

The report was released during the 5th International Stroke Society World Congress in Vancouver, B.C. It is estimated that 80 percent of strokes are ischemic, where a clot causing a stroke blocks an artery or blood vessel.

There is currently only one FDA approved "clot buster" medication called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). This drug must be administered within three hours of the first stroke symptom.

The Washington researchers looked at hospital discharge data of 26,069 stroke patients over the age of 45 in Washington State from 1999-2002. The records indicated 306 patients (1.2%) were treated with t-PA.

In the review, female ischemic stroke patients received the drug significantly less often than men. The odds ratio for female stroke treatment with t-PA is 0.72. The study also reported elderly patients were 28 percent less likely to be treated with t-PA for every decade older than 45 years of age. Patients on Medicaid were about half as likely to get t-PA compared to Medicare patients.

The study showed a trend that hospitals treating more ischemic stroke patients were more likely to give t-PA therapy. "This study suggests there may be unequal access to t-PA therapy for acute ischemic stroke based on age, gender, type of medical insurance and the amount of stroke care given at a hospital.

Further research needs to be done to confirm and possibly explain these findings. Similar disparities in access may exist nationwide and could have implications for stroke triage in communities.

National Stroke Association wants patients to ask their doctors about the latest in stroke treatment and which hospitals in their area have the greatest expertise in treating stroke. Based in Englewood, Colo., National Stroke Association is a leading, independent national nonprofit organization devoting 100 percent of its efforts and resources to stroke.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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