Minutes Matter for Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke


A new study shows that in patients with acute ischemic stroke, every 15 minutes counts when talking about the time it takes to begin intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) therapy.

According to a report in JAMA, patients who received tPA treatment within 4.5 hours of symptom onset and had faster onset to treatment (OTT) had reduced in-hospital mortality and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage rates (odds ratio for each, 0.96). Each 15-minute reduction in OTT also increased rates of independent ambulation at discharge and discharge to the home.

"This study emphasizes and characterizes better than before the fundamental importance of rapid start of thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke," says lead author Jeffrey Saver, MD, professor of neurology at the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and director of the UCLA Stroke Center. "[For] every 15-minute delay of start of therapy, two fewer of out of 100 patients benefit. And this means that hospital systems need to be optimized to ensure that the target of door-to-needle time for start of tPA being under 60 minutes is achieved more often."

Dr. Saver says door-to-needle times under one hour have improved in recent years to nearly 50% from 25%, but hospitals can do better.

Recommended steps to improve that figure include having ambulances provide pre-arrival notification of stroke patients, having everyone on a stroke/hospitalist team paged at once to prepare all physicians who would potentially interact with the patients, premixing thrombolytic drugs to allow for quicker use, and having a data feedback system so institutions can figure out where the obstacles are to achieving improved performance.

"This is the type of system change that occurs by evolution, not revolution," Dr. Saver adds. "You need to bring your team together, you need physician champions to take the lead, and then you need to slowly drive system change based on the data in your institution. This is not an easy task, but it’s the type of task that hospitalists are perfect for."

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