According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), preliminary data shows that deaths from stroke have decreased, and that stroke will likely move from third to fourth place on the list of leading causes of death.
The CDC reports that 133,750 people died from stroke in 2008, about 2,200 fewer than in the previous year, according to the latest statistics. The percentage change in the age-adjusted stroke death rate from 2007 to 2008 is about 3.8 percent.
“We’re moving in the right direction with a lot of credit going to prevention of the first stroke,” said Dr. Joseph Farraye, the director of neurology at Elmhurst Hospital. “There’s better treatment of high blood pressure because with that not under control you’re going to have a stroke.”
But even with the progress, Americans suffer nearly 800,000 primary and secondary strokes annually- the equivalent of one every forty seconds and a fatality every four minutes. In Queens, that often means emergency trips to Elmhurst Hospital.
The hospital was recently awarded the American Heart/Stroke Association's Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award. The Get With the Guidelines award recognized the hospital’s success in implementing excellent care for stroke patients.
“The award demonstrates Elmhurst Hospital Center’s commitment to being one of the top hospitals in the country for providing aggressive, proven stroke care,” said Chris Constantino, the hospital's chief operating officer.
“We will continue with our focus on providing care that has been shown in the scientific literature to quickly and efficiently treat stroke patients with evidence-based protocols.”
At the first sign of stroke, victims should call 911 rather than driving to the ER.
“Time is of the essence, between three and four-and-a-half hours of symptom onset is the window of opportunity,” said Farraye. “En route, the ambulance crew alerts the hospital’s stroke team of the victim’s condition and estimated arrival time.”
At the hospital, medical condition and history is assessed, a CAT scan is given, and a decision is made for injection of the clot-busting thrombolytic tPA, which is largely based on symptom onset time.
“Nationally, only three to four percent of acute stroke victims with a blocked artery can receive it,” Farraye said. “But with people in Queens better informed and getting to the hospital faster, we’re up to 10 percent who can take tPA. That lessens the chance of complications and disability and that’s real progress.”
Farraye stressed the importance of preventive health care.
According to the American Stroke Association, the major risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high lipid levels.
The warning signs of stroke include garbled speech, sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden dizziness, blurred or double vision and tingling around the mouth or hands.
Diana Barrett, the American Heart Association's regional director, said hospitals receive the association's Get With the Guidelines award only after their health care delivery becomes as efficient as possible.
“It’s about the internal process, getting people to write things down the same way, order tests the same way, address procedures the same way and at the end of the day become so consistent that the program sort of runs itself,” she said. “It takes time but that’s usually when hospitals reach award status.”
According to one study, hospitals receiving the award have lower mortality rates for heart attack and stroke patients than other hospitals. “Many hospitals enrolled in Get With The Guidelines achieve high levels of recommended care for heart failure, heart attack and stroke,” said Paul A. Heidenreich, the study's lead author.