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ER Visits for Ischemic Stroke, TIA Down Over Past Decade

CDC study finds fewer patients treated in ERs for blood clots in the brain

TUESDAY, March 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Fewer people are being treated in U.S. emergency departments for ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack, which experts read as a sign that current stroke prevention methods are working. Such visits declined 35 percent for adults 18 and older, and 51 percent for those 55 to 74, according to a March data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The CDC report also contained evidence that doctors are providing more comprehensive care for stroke victims. For example, doctors more frequently used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to evaluate a patient who came to the emergency department with signs of ischemic stroke, the CDC report found. The percentage of emergency department stroke visits that involved an MRI or CT scan increased 39 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to the researchers.

Such scans are important prior to giving patients thrombolytic medications that can quickly treat a stroke and prevent further brain damage, lead author Anjali Talwalkar, M.D., M.P.H., a medical officer with the NCHS, told HealthDay. “These scans are definitely a critical piece of care for a stroke.” And, more patients are being admitted into a hospital or transferred to another facility after showing up in an emergency department for stroke. The number of admissions or transfers increased 10 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to the report.

Not all the news from the CDC report was positive, however. The researchers also found that fewer people are arriving at the emergency department by ambulance after suffering stroke symptoms. The percentage of ambulance-transported stroke patients younger than 75 decreased 41 percent between 2004 and 2011.

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