In the second installment of a series profiling the leading causes of illness and death in the U.S., the New York Times on Monday examined strokes, the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Each year, 700,000 U.S. residents have strokes and 150,000 die. Half of stroke survivors are left with permanent disabilities, including loss of vision, paralysis and difficulty speaking.

Most strokes "could have been avoided with appropriate medical care," the Times reports, also noting that "rapid treatment is crucial." The only drug approved to treat strokes, tPA, must be administered within three hours of stroke onset and is given to 3% to 4% of stroke patients. According to the Times, "Less than a third of patients get to the hospital early enough, within three hours of the onset of symptoms. And even if they do, many hospitals do not offer the drug for reasons that have to do with money and availability of stroke specialists."

About half of all strokes could be prevented if patients controlled their blood pressure or other risk factors such as smoking. Most stroke patients "were unaware of their risk or did not appreciate the importance of stroke prevention," the Times reports (Kolata [1], New York Times, 5/28).

Additional Coverage
The Times on Monday featured two additional articles related to strokes and stroke care. Summaries appear below.
"Cost Put a Crucial Stroke Treatment Out of Reach for a Small Island Hospital, Then Technology Made It Possible": The Times profiled Martha's Vineyard Hospital, which uses TeleStroke, a program offered by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston that enables Harvard University neurologists to examine patients remotely and assist the emergency department doctor in deciding whether to administer tPA. The program costs $10,000 per year (Kolata [2], New York Times, 5/28).

"Steps Toward Reducing Risk: Controlling Blood Pressure, Learning the Warning Signs and Acting Immediately": The Times featured comments by Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who listed five things everyone should know about stroke: outcome statistics; prevention techniques; warning signs, methods for reducing risk; and a reminder to seek treatment for suspected stroke immediately (New York Times, 5/28).

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