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Stroke deaths decrease in Iowa

Experts attribute access to care, awareness

James Torner, University of Iowa professor of epidemiology and member of the Iowa Stroke Task Force. (Photo courtesy of James Torner)
James Torner, University of Iowa professor of epidemiology and member of the Iowa Stroke Task Force. (Photo courtesy of James Torner)

IOWA CITY — The number of deaths caused by stroke have declined across Iowa, according to a new nationwide study.

A study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with data gathered by a University of Iowa College of Public Health task force, showed that Iowa is one of 13 states nationwide that saw a steady drop in stroke death rates from 2000 to 2015.

Iowa’s rate dropped by 33 percent, according to the study’s findings.

The data was gathered by the Iowa Department of Public Health in conjunction with the Iowa Stroke Task Force, within the College of Public Health, said James Torner, UI professor of epidemiology and member of the task force.

According to the study, the decline can be attributed to several factors, including development of a statewide stroke registry.

Torner said the goal of the Iowa Stroke Registry, which is managed by the task force, is “to monitor the quality of care of stroke in the state” and to “monitor performance and look at outcomes.”

Torner said it was developed in 2009 using funding from the CDC.

“The principle of the task force and the registry is to act as a system of care for stroke — in other words, triaging patients from smaller hospitals to larger hospitals efficiently based on time,” Torner said.

The certification of more hospitals as primary stroke centers also was a key to stroke death decline throughout the state, the study found. The number of primary stroke centers in the state has nearly doubled since 2005, Torner said.

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There are currently 18 primary stroke centers — or a hospital-based center with resources to care for acute stroke patients — and one comprehensive stroke center, which is at the University of Iowa.

However, Torner said the majority of hospitals across the state are capable of diagnosing stroke, treating the patient with thrombocytic therapy and transferring to a primary or comprehensive stroke center.

The Iowa Stroke Registry has “improved, basically, the system of care in hospitals around the state,” Torner said. “And so what we’ve done is essentially organizing the state so all hospitals know where these primary stroke center is.”

Time is of the essence for those who have had a stroke as thrombocytic therapy is only effective within a certain window, Torner said.

“You have to initiate that thrombocytic therapy within three hours for most patients, and for a few patients within four and a half hours,” Torner said.

“The major problem is that most people deny they are having a stroke and they get to the hospital too late. The treatment is not effective and they end up with a fixed deficit.”

The CDC also emphasized the importance of knowing when a stroke, and being aware of the symptoms — such as a drooping face, an inability to raise both arms or slurred words.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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