More patients survive thanks to provincial stroke strategy

  • Nov. 20, 2013 4:52 p.m.

Improvements in stroke treatment in Alberta have led to a significant reduction in stroke-related deaths across the province.

Since the development and implementation of the government’s stroke strategy, mortality rates for patients hospitalized for stroke have declined by about one-third since 2005.

Research compiled since the strategy was initiated also shows that the number of stroke prevention clinics has increased from three to 12, with more than 22,000 patients having received treatment at these clinics.

“Thanks to its proactive approach in prevention and treatment, Alberta has become a leader in Canada in dealing with strokes and their related impacts,” said Health Minister Fred Horne. “This approach has not only reduced the number of deaths associated with those who suffered strokes, it has given Albertans the tools they need to help them prevent suffering in the first place.”

As part of its strategy, Alberta has increased the number of facilities that can administer the clot-busting drug TPA, from five hospitals in 2005 to 18 today, which has helped significantly reduce stroke-related disability across the province.

Mortality rates have dropped 29% for ischemic strokes and 32% for hemorrhagic strokes.

The provincial stroke strategy is a $42.5 million project funded by the Government of Alberta. Key stakeholders include Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut.

“This strategy has made Alberta a national leader in stroke prevention and care, thanks to our partnerships with the Government of Alberta, Heart & Stroke Foundation and the health professionals who care for stroke patients and their families every day,” said Duncan Campbell, acting president and CEO of AHS. “There’s a lot in store for stroke care in Alberta. Our new Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network will play an important role in continuing to improve the care we deliver in all areas of the province.”

Established by AHS, Strategic Clinical Networks (SCNs) are province-wide teams comprised of health care professionals, researchers, community leaders, patients and policy-makers. Each SCN is dedicated to developing care ‘pathways’ in a specific area of health that will enhance the patient journey, improve outcomes and standardize care delivery across the province.

Donna Hastings, CEO of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut, said she is more than pleased with the significant improvements achieved in the past eight years.

“The strategy has paved the way for continued improvements in the delivery of stroke care across the province,” she said. “We look forward to a vastly more positive health future for Albertans.”

The government and AHS are also preparing to unveil a province-wide plan that will improve access to rehabilitation and other stroke services in rural areas, and standardize stroke care throughout the province, ensuring all patients have access to the most forward-thinking and highest quality stroke care. Details on this plan will be announced in the coming months.

Strokes occur when the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted (ischemic strokes), or when blood vessels in the brain rupture (hemorrhagic strokes), and cause brain cells in the affected area to die. When a patient suffers an ischemic stroke, there’s a four and a half hour window in which treatment will be effective, and the most common treatment is TPA.

– Vossen

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