SEATTLE, Dec. 14, 2009 -- Every minute-and-a-half, on average, someone in America suffers a stroke. That's 795,000 strokes a year -- a big toll by any measure. Strokes are the third-ranking cause of death and the leading cause of disability. But most stroke specialists think it doesn't have to be so bad.
The vast majority of strokes are caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to part of the brain. Depending on where, victims suffer dizziness, weakness, numbness, loss of speech or other symptoms. Most of the time, the damage is permanent.
Since 1996 there's been an approved drug called t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) that, according to some big studies, can often break up the clot, restore blood flow and prevent much permanent damage -- if the drug is given within a few hours of symptom onset.
About a third of stroke victims are thought to be eligible to get the clot-busting drug. But fewer than five percent do, by some estimates. The reasons are complicated.
On Dec. 14 National Public Radio's 'Morning Edition' program aired a story on this topic. To listen to the piece online and/or read the transcript, click here.
- Each of Swedish's four campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Issaquah) has been certified by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a Primary Stroke Center. To learn more about that designation, click here.
- And Swedish was the first health provider in Washington state to implement a telemedicine-enabled 'TeleStroke' program, which currently helps provide a higher level of stroke care to Swedish's four emergency departments (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Issaquah), as well as those at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Wash.; Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend, Wash.; and Lake Chelan Community Hospital in Chelan, Wash.