Research to bring brain-saving stroke treatment to rural areas

07 April, 2009

Minister for Science and Medical Research Jodi McKay will launch an Australian first research trial, which aims to deliver brain-saving stroke treatment to rural communities.

McKay said the rural trial of the Pre-hospital Acute Stroke Triage (PAST) Protocol will give stroke patients in the Upper Hunter, Great Lakes and Lower Manning areas access to world class thrombolysis or clot-busting stroke treatment as soon as possible.

“This revolutionary stroke treatment is already being applied successfully in Newcastle and Gosford and will now be offered to rural communities for the first time,” McKay said.

“There is an estimated 160 stroke patients from the Upper Hunter, Great Lakes and Lower Manning each year.

“That’s 160 patients who could benefit from clot busting treatment, capable of reversing the debilitating effects of stroke.

“Previously this treatment was only available in capital cities or regional centres across Australia.”

McKay said if the trial shows that the system is successful in a rural setting, it could be rolled out nationally to benefit thousands of stroke patients and save millions of dollars in health care costs each year.

Associate Professor Chris Levi, a member of the HMRI Stroke Research Group and Director of Acute Stroke Services for Hunter New England Health said time is our enemy in treating stroke.

“Stroke treatments must be administered within three hours after stroke to be effective,’ Professor Levi said.

“By using the system in Newcastle we have been able to overcome the time barrier and treat many more eligible patients. Our treatment rate is now among the world’s highest,” Professor Levi said.

Professor Levi emphasised the importance of seeking early treatment for stroke. “It is crucial that people recognise the signs of stroke – facial weakness, arm weakness and speech difficulties – and immediately seek help by dialling ‘000’ and informing the telephone operator of the stroke.”