Surprisingly one in three people who suffer from stroke don’t go to hospital by ambulance, which is the fastest way to get there, according to a new study carried out by a team from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and the UCLA Comprehensive Stroke Center in Los Angeles, and published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The study involved analyzing the records of around 204,000 stroke patients who arrived at emergency rooms across 1,563 hospitals, part of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke quality improvement program, spanning from 2003 to 2010.

63.7 percent of stroke patients were transported by emergency medical services (EMS) to a hospital, whereas the rest arrived by different means.

It is crucial that when someone suffers from stroke, quick and immediate treatment is carried out. With EMS transport 79 percent of stroke sufferers were transported to a nearby hospital within hours of their initial symptoms, which resulted in an earlier, quicker, and faster evaluation and treatment.

61 percent of people who were transported to hospital by EMS arrived within hours of their symptoms compared to 40 percent who arrived by other means.

In addition, 55 percent of patients who arrived with EMS received a brain scan within 25 minutes of arrival, versus only 35.6 percent who didn’t use EMS.

Senior author, Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D., director of the UCLA Comprehensive Stroke Center in Los Angeles, Calif. said:

“EMS are able to give the hospital a heads up, and that grabs the attention of the emergency room staff to be ready to act as soon as the patient arrives. The ambulance crew also knows which hospitals in the area have qualified stroke centers. Patients don’t lose time going to one hospital only to be referred to another that can provide more advanced care if needed, whether that’s drugs to bust up the clot or device procedures to remove it.”

They identified the people who were less likely to call for EMS at signs of stroke were minorities and those living in rural areas.

Lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn, James Ekundayo, M.D., said:

“A number of factors can fuel the reluctance to call 9-1-1. People may not recognize symptoms and may delay seeking medical care or call their doctor instead.

We hear people say they just didn’t want to be a bother, but many times there could have been a better outcome if EMS had been called.”

Approximately 795,000 people suffer from a new or recurrent stroke annually in the U.S. Every four minutes someone in the country dies from stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and there is only one approved treatment

The researchers highlight the need to improve public awareness and improve short- and long-term outcomes.

It is important that people receive prompt treatment after a stroke, your chances of having a subsequent major stroke are massively reduced if you are assessed and treated quickly, according to two articles published in The Lancet.

The acronym F.A.S.T can be used to help recognize a stroke:

  • Face Drooping – Is one side of the person’s face appears droopy or numb? Ask them to smile.
  • Arm Weakness – Are their arms numb or weak? Ask them to lift both hands.
  • Speech Difficulty – Is their speech slurred or are they unable to speak? Ask them to say a simple sentence.
  • Time to call 9-1-1 – if the person shows any of these symptoms it is time to call emergency services and ask for help.

Saver concluded: “Your life, your brain, depends on calling 9-1-1. Know the signs and act fast if you or someone you’re with is having stroke symptoms.”

Written by Joseph Nordqvist