"Getting the patient to the right facility the first time will lead to the best possible outcomes," Dr. Kaminsky said. "EMS needs to evaluate the patient and get them to a comprehensive center like Swedish if they suspect a large vessel occlusion."
In January 2018, the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) released new ischemic stroke treatment guidelines that make more patients eligible for life-saving treatments.
According to the ASA, an ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases and occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
The updated guidelines expand the treatment window for a clot-removal procedure, called a mechanical thrombectomy, from six hours to 24 hours after the stroke begins. This procedure is effective for the most severe strokes, those caused by large vessel occlusions (blockages).
"This change in the guidelines will allow emergency medical services (EMS) to treat almost every patient that has stroke symptoms as a candidate for intervention treatment," said Dr. Ian Kaminsky, a neurointerventional surgeon at Swedish Medical Center in Colorado.
However, just because the time frame and intervention treatment options have expanded it doesn't mean you should wait to seek medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke. The sooner patients arrive at a hospital - ideally a comprehensive stroke center - the more likely they are to receive lifesaving clot-removal treatments.
"It's important to call 9-1-1 at the first sign of stroke," Dr. Kaminsky said. "... we strive to have the blocked vessel open in less than 60 minutes from arrival. Our fastest recorded case is 5 minutes from groin puncture to opening the vessel."
Oftentimes the individual who's experiencing the stroke is too disoriented to call 9-1-1, so it's important to learn how to spot a stroke F-A-S-T.
F - Face drooping
A - Arm weakness
S - Speech difficulty
T - Time to call 9-1-1
Dr. Kaminsky recommends educating family and community members about stroke symptoms and what to do if you suspect a loved one or stranger is experiencing a stroke.
Instead of driving the patient to the hospital, wait for EMS to arrive after calling 9-1-1. Immediate medical treatment saves lives.
"Getting the patient to the right facility the first time will lead to the best possible outcomes," Dr. Kaminsky said. "EMS needs to evaluate the patient and get them to a (hospital) if they suspect a large vessel occlusion."