A recent study by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit association that accredits hospitals, shows that clot busting medicines are used to treat stroke with greater frequency at certified Primary Stroke Centers than at non-certified hospitals. These clot busting medicines (also called “thrombolytics”), such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), are used to disintegrate clots and return blood flow to the compromised area of the brain. The window for using clot busters is only several hours. Therefore, hospital personnel must be prepared to evaluate the stroke patient promptly after arrival so that treatment can be started within the applicable window of time.
Hospitals that are certified as stroke centers by The Joint Commission must meet certain planning and evaluation requirements. Both certified and uncertified hospitals are permitted to administer clot busting medications. Indeed, the standard of care requires hospital personnel to treat stroke patients who meet the criteria for clot busting drugs. Despite offering emergency medical services to stroke patients, this study shows that uncertified hospitals are lagging in their use of tPA where otherwise indicated. A failure to comply with existing treatment standards constitutes medical malpractice. Delay in diagnosis or treatment of stroke is a common cause of medical negligence claims in Ohio.
When the administration of clot busting medications is delayed, the window of opportunity for using these medications closes and they can no longer be used. The American Stroke Association has already established that “time is brain,” meaning that the sooner blood flow is restored to the brain after a stroke, the less permanent brain damage the stroke will cause. Clot busters are an important tool for opening clogged arteries and restoring blood flow.
There are, of course, certain limits on the use of clot busters, as with any medication. Not only must they be used within the applicable window, but they can only be used to reverse symptoms of a stroke caused by blood clots. They cannot be used to restore blood flow when there is a hemorrhagic stroke (also called a “brain bleed”).