Stroke research: UCLA study finds 15 minutes can make huge difference

Jacqueline Knowles of Culver City was having a stroke. The 74-year-old remembers the paramedic not wasting any time.

"He didn't wait for the gurney," she said, "He picked me up in his arms and he took me downstairs."

In 8 minutes flat, first responders got her to the emergency department at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

UCLA professor of interventional neuro-radiology Dr. Reza Jahan said, "From the time she arrived in the hospital to the time we were doing the procedure, it was under one hour. So pretty fast."

The faster you get into the hospital and into treatment, the better the outcome. But, what exactly does that mean in the real world? That's what UCLA researchers wanted to find out.

"If you do 15 minutes faster? Thirty minutes faster?," Jahan asked. "How does that translate into better outcomes?"

Study Co-lead author Dr. Jahan and his colleagues looked at 7,000 stroke cases. They discovered 15 minutes truly matters. For every 1,000 stroke patients, they found:

"Seventeen more patients being able to walk when they leave the hospital. Eighteen more patients having no disability when they leave the hospital. Twenty-one more patients being able to go home and 15 fewer deaths, " Jahan said.

The team also looked at where patients can gain those precious minutes. The first hurdle is people not recognizing the symptoms. Remember the acronym FAST. "F" is for Face. Look out for drooping on one side or the other. "A" stands for arm. When your arm is weak or numb. The "S" stands for speech when your speech is off or you can't understand speech. And "T" is for time to call 911.

Another hurdle is decreased hospital staffing during nights and weekends. It's an issue Jahan said hospitals need to examine. But the study found treatment times were much faster in larger hospitals with certified stroke programs.

"It's very, very important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke and to call 911 immediately to get to the right place for treatment," Jahn said. "Look at the difference 15 minutes can make."

Knowles made a complete recovery.

She said, "Hurry up as fast as you can. Get them to the hospital because doctors told me that's what saved my life."

The paper's other UCLA authors are Dr. Jeffrey Saver, a professor of neurology and director of the Comprehensive Stroke and Vascular Neurology Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, co-lead author of the study, and Dr. Gregg Fonarow, the Eliot Corday Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine and Science and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
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