The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Stroke Research Group, New South Wales, has developed a system to fast track stroke treatment that could benefit thousands of Australian stroke patients and save millions of dollars annually.

The system, called the pre-hospital acute stroke triage (PAST protocol), reduces prehospital and emergency department delays to allow more stroke patients to receive brain-saving thrombolysis or clot busting treatment within the 3-hour treatment window.

The protocol equips ambulance officers with a stroke assessment tool to more accurately identify patients who may benefit from clot-busting treatment, gives the ambulance control officer phone contact with a stroke neurologist to identify out of area patients who may be eligible for treatment, and allows an on-call acute stroke team to respond and provide immediate care for the patient on arrival at hospital.

"If the PAST protocol is implemented nationally, an additional 2,500 patients could receive thrombolysis treatment each year and an estimated cost-saving of $31.2 million dollars per annum will be realized," says Associate Professor Chris Levi, Head of the HMRI stroke research group and director of acute stroke services at John Hunter Hospital.

As a result of the protocol, the number of patients treated with thrombolytic therapy at John Hunter Hospital rose from 4.7% to 21.4%. Of those treated, 43% had minimal or no disability 3 months after the stroke.

Currently, less than 1% of patients who have experienced an ischaemic stroke receive thrombolysis treatment in Australia. The world best practice rate is 15 to 20%.

"By reversing the crippling effects of stroke we are enabling more people to return to their families, their homes and their jobs. This also reduces the demand on nursing home beds, in-hospital rehabilitation programs, and the health care dollar," said lead investigator Debbie Quain, a member of the HMRI stroke research group and a Hunter New England Health stroke research nurse.

Results of the Australian-first trial conducted at John Hunter Hospital, NSW, are published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.

Stroke affects some 53,000 Australians annually.

[Source: Medical News Today]