Community services counter study on stroke deaths

Stroke victims are more likely to die from the stroke if they’re admitted to a hospital on a weekend rather than a weekday, a group of Canadian researchers found.

Dr. Tanya C. Warwick, a board certified vascular neurologist and medical director of Community Regional Medical Center’s Stroke Center, wasn’t surprised at the Canadian study’s conclusions: “Many hospitals do not have weekend coverage for neurological specialists or certain procedures. In addition, many facilities staff their nursing needs with part time workers or travelers on the weekends. All this may all play a role in increased mortalities.”

The study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association said concerns about weekend hospitalization shouldn’t delay people from seeking help. Researchers urged people to seek medical care as soon as possible – just seek it at an appropriate hospital.

Valley residents should feel comforted that expert stroke care is available around-the-clock at Community’s downtown campus, says Dr. Warwick, assistant clinical professor of neurology for UCSF Fresno.

Community Regional’s stroke center provides 24-hour vascular neurology and neurosurgery coverage for the most critical stroke patients. In addition, Community has a team of specially trained stroke nurses who care for patients seven days a week once they reach the hospital’s dedicated stroke unit.

Dr. Warwick says the key to stroke care is prevention and early intervention. Time is critical. The stroke center has treatments that when administered within three hours from the onset of symptoms can significantly increase the likelihood of recovery.

“But we cannot give the medications if the patients don't get to us in time,” Dr. Warwick says. “Stroke is a medical emergency and time lost is brain lost, so patients need to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke.”

 If any of these symptoms occur, call 911 immediately:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

 

The Canadian study found that a fourth of the ischemic stroke sufferers admitted to a hospital on a Saturday or Sunday had a 14% higher risk of dying within a week than patients admitted Monday through Friday.

Researchers looked at 26,676 patients admitted to 606 Canadian hospitals over a year and adjusted the data to account for the effects of age, gender and medical complications unrelated to the stroke. Ischemic, the most common type of stroke, occurs when an artery in the brain or leading to it has a blood clot that stops blood and oxygen from getting to brain cells.

The research team was led by Dr. Gustavo Saposnik assistant professor of medicine and director of the Stroke Research Unit Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto, and a staff neurologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Saposnik’s team found the death risk was different for different settings, with rural hospitals having higher death rates and teaching hospitals having the lowest. Community Regional Medical Center is a teaching hospital affiliated with the UCSF medical school.

This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at ekennedy@communitymedical.org.