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Alberta halves time it takes to diagnose and treat stroke patients

Alberta halves time it takes to diagnose and treat stroke patients
WATCH ABOVE: It's reffered to as "door to needle", the time it takes a stroke patient to receive treatment, and thanks to a new approach, Alberta is way ahead. Tracy Nagai reports.

Known as door-to-needle time, the average time it takes from a stroke patient’s arrival at hospital to their diagnosis and treatment has been cut in half in the province, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said Monday.

The improvement means time is down from about 70 to 36 minutes, in what AHS said makes the province’s stroke treatment centres “among the fastest in the world.”

“A similar effort in the U.S. has seen average door-to-needle times in participating hospitals drop 20 per cent, from 74 minutes to 59 minutes,” said a Monday release.

READ MORE: Canada’s first stroke ambulance rolls into Edmonton

Calgary-based neurologist Dr. Michael Hill said in the past, the accepted treatment benchmark had been within an hour of patients’ arrival at hospital.

“But we know that by doing better, we can improve outcomes for patients by preventing or limiting long-term disabilities,” Hill said in the statement.

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“And when we can give stroke patients better chances to fully recover, we also eliminate potential downstream costs to the health system.”

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Watch below: Fifteen-year-old Sam Vaught from Sioux City, Iowa suffered a stroke. Vaught’s family says the medical emergency has been “life-changing.” They’re sharing his story as a cautionary tale: a stroke can happen at any age.

‘Stroke can happen to anyone’: Family shares cautionary tale of 15-year-old son
‘Stroke can happen to anyone’: Family shares cautionary tale of 15-year-old son

The treatment in question is an injection of tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator), which is a clot-busting drug.

READ MORE: New efforts to stimulate a damaged brain at the Alberta Children’s Hospital show great results

The year-long improvement initiative was part of a research program funded by Alberta Innovates called QuICR– Quality Improvement & Clinical Research – Alberta Stroke Program.

QuICR project manager Noreen Kamal emphasized the improvements have also been made in Fort McMurray, Westlock, Red Deer and smaller facilities like Grey Nuns in Edmonton, in addition to the larger hospitals in Alberta’s main cities.

Grey Nuns Hospital has the fastest provincial record for door-to-needle time at six minutes.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan implements new pathway protocols for stroke patients

AHS said during an ischemic stroke, during which blood supply to the brain is blocked, about two million brain cells die each minute.

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The QuICR program ensures staff work concurrently when possible, meaning a lab technician might draw blood while the patient has a CT scan, while elsewhere a history is being collected from a family member and the tPA is being prepared.

AHS vice president of research, innovation and analytics Dr. Kathryn Todd championed the program and the partnerships involved in its execution.

“Having a network of people dedicated to improving health outcomes in specific areas ensures quality improvements spread and take root,” she said.

“It’s so very critical; with stroke, time is brain.”

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