Approximately 750,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year. 83% of those strokes are ischemic, or caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. The remainder of the strokes are called hemorrhagic strokes which are caused by bleeding in the brain itself. The treatment for ischemic strokes is the quick administration (within 3 hours of onset) of a clot-dissolving drug called tPA. However, to give tPA to a patient suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke would likely increase the bleeding in the brain and increase the likelihood of death.
How do doctors determine whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic? They take a picture (CT) of the brain and have that picture interpreted by a radiologist who can then determine what type of stroke the patient is suffering and plan the appropriate treatment.
In a major article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000, a group of leading neurologists recommended that hospitals be able to perform a CT or MRI scan within 25 minutes of the doctor’s order for the test and that radiologists be available to read and interpret the studies within 20 minutes.
The obvious question is, “why don’t all stroke patients receive an immediate head CT upon arriving at the hospital with complaints consistent with a stroke”? I don’t believe this 9 year old recommendation by America’s leading medical association is being followed by the hospitals in southwest Virginia including:
Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Lewis-Gale Hospital, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville and Henry County, Danville Regional Medical Center, Stonewall
Jackson Hospital, Carilion New River Valley Hospital, Montgomery Regional Hospital, Wellmont Bristol Regional Hospital, Carilion Giles Memorial Hospital, Alleghany Regional Hospital, Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, and Tazewell Community Hospital