Over 4,800 cases of stroke were recorded in acute public hospitals last year, a new report has shown.
According to the National Stroke Register 2018 Annual Report, 4,817 cases were recorded, with three in four of these cases occurring in people over the age of 65.
The report revealed a major improvement in the time taken to be seen by a doctor after arriving in hospital. In 2015, stroke patients were left waiting an average of 156 minutes to be seen by a doctor. Last year, the average wait time was 34 minutes.
There was also an improvement in the time taken to get a CT scan. In 2015, patients were left waiting an average of 133 minutes. Last year, the average wait time was 84 minutes.
Meanwhile, the time it took to receive clot-busting thrombolysis treatment also improved. In 2015, patients were left waiting an average of one hour and three minutes. In 2018, this was 58 minutes.
The report noted a high level of "unwitnessed" stroke, with the time of onset recorded as "unknown" in almost half of all cases. Furthermore, the average time between the onset of symptoms and arrival at hospital increased from two hours and 30 minutes in 2015 to two hours and 55 minutes in 2018.
"The median time of symptom onset to hospital arrival has increased by 25 minutes since 2015 and in nine hospitals, the median time to hospital was more than three hours. This would support the need for increased public awareness campaigns such as the FAST campaign," the report said.
According to Dr Ronan Collins, clinical lead of the HSE National Stroke Programme, the report shows "very encouraging trends" in mortality from stroke due to blood clotting. This is partly due to better medical treatment and faster provision of care.
However, mortality from stroke due to haemorrhage remains high at over 30%, "reflecting a lack of medical progress internationally with this type of stroke".
Dr Collins said that while progress overall is encouraging, only 70% of patients are getting acute stroke care and the provision of post-stroke therapy "is inadequate for almost 50% of patients".
"The Stroke Alliance for Europe has predicted an absolute increase of 58% in stroke numbers in Ireland over the coming decade or so. This is a challenge that will require focused investment and planning and the HSE National Stroke Programme will be finalising its five-year national strategy later this month to deal with the areas of prevention, acute care and cure, restoration to living and research and education," Dr Collins added.
The National Stroke Register 2018 Annual Report can be viewed here.
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