Speeding up delivery of anti-clotting drugs to stroke victims could greatly improve their chances of recovery. Medicines that break up clots are the only effective treatment in the hours after a stroke. To do any good, however, they must be administered before brain cells die. The current standard requires that treatment begin within three hours of the onset of the stroke, and most patients who make it to the hospital on time get the drugs within the last half hour before that deadline.
Now, a new report finds that earlier treatment - in the first 90 minutes after symptoms begin - doubles the chances of full recovery compared with treatment that starts later.
"If we can convince people that every minute counts, it could be a big boost. We can't relax for one minute. With every minute, brain cells are dying by the tens of thousands. '' said Dr. Thomas G. Brott of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
Brott and colleagues combined data from 8 studies of clot-dissolving drugs involving 3,890 patients. They found that those treated within the first 90 minutes after the start of symptoms have almost three times the chance of a full recovery compared to people who are not treated. However, those treated in the second 90 minutes have only a 1.5 times greater chance of recovery. Brott said hospitals should strive to start treatment as fast as possible.