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States Aim to Improve Trauma Protocols for Stroke Patients

Six states — Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia — have adopted new laws that aim to improve the chances of stroke patients’ survival.

More than 140,000 people in the U.S. die from a stroke every year. After a stroke, it is critical for the person to reach the nearest and most appropriate hospital as soon as possible.

The new laws require paramedics to transport severe stroke patients directly to a hospital with a comprehensive stroke center licensed to perform thrombectomies, a surgery to remove blood clots from the brain.

Recent evidence shows that thrombectomies are highly effective at preventing stroke-related deaths and impairments. Only 178 of the nation’s more than 6,200 hospitals have comprehensive stroke centers where the surgery can be performed. Essential hospitals account for 16 percent of hospitals with advanced stroke centers.

Current state policies for emergency stroke patients vary widely. Most state policies direct paramedics to the nearest hospital, where emergency physicians decide whether to transfer patients to a comprehensive stroke center for a thrombectomy. Another hurdle for timely stroke care is that some states prohibit paramedics from transporting stroke patients to out-of-state hospitals.

Several other states, including Florida, Massachusetts, and New York, are considering 2019 updates to their trauma protocols for stroke patients.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Kelcie Jimenez is a state policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.