A small trial in Germany has shown that using specialised ambulances could improve the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients.
When a suspected stroke victim arrives at hospital, they are given a brain scan to see what type of stroke has occurred. If the patient has suffered an ischaemic stroke they will require clot-busting drugs. If they suffered a haemorrhagic stroke they are treated with drugs to control brain swelling.
Ambulances equipped with stroke equipment had faster diagnosis times
A rapid assessment of the stroke is critical, because the faster an eligible patient receives treatment the better their chances of survival. Clot-busting drugs are necessary for around 80 per cent of stroke victims, but they only work if given within four and a half hours of stroke onset.
A trial of 100 patients in Germany showed that treatment decision times were reduced by equipping ambulance staff with the necessary tools to diagnose and manage stroke, including CT scanners.
Writing in the Lancet Neurology, researchers found that eligible patients treated by an ambulance received clot-busting drugs within 35 minutes on average. In contrast, those sent to hospital for treatment in the usual way waited 76 minutes.
Whilst patient outcomes did not differ significantly between the two groups, experts say that larger studies are needed to explore what impact earlier diagnosis will have on treatment methods.
Each year more than 110,000 people in England will have a stroke, which costs the NHS over £2.8bn. Only a minority of stroke patients reach hospital and undergo brain scanning within a few hours. Nikki Hill of The Stroke Association said:
"When a stroke strikes time lost is brain lost, meaning that getting urgent medical attention quickly is absolutely essential."
"Treating suspected stroke patients at the site of the emergency is an interesting development and it could help to speed up the whole treatment process for some patients.”
Medical emergencies are not covered by private medical insurance. If you require emergency care, you will be treated on the NHS in Accident and Emergency. After you are stabilised, private medical insurance will allow you to be transferred to a private ward or to a private hospital for your continued treatment.
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