Stroke Care Worse for African-Americans

It is critical to spot the symptoms of an oncoming attack, and to call 911 quickly.

Posted: 11/22/2011 09:27 AM EST
stroke, 911, Wayne State University, African Americans, emergency care

It's been well documented that racial disparities in health are common in the United States.

Another drop in this bucket comes from a recent study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit. Researchers suggest that African-American patients who have suffered ischemic strokes — strokes that occur as a result of a clot within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain — are less likely to receive top-of-the-line quality care.

Ischemic strokes make up 87 percent of all stroke cases here in the U.S.

According to Medpage Today, analyzing data from 430 whites and 144 Black patients (women making up 53 percent), researchers found the following:

· The primary barrier to top-of-the-line care was that African-American patients were less likely to show up the hospital in an ambulance compared to their white counterparts. Showing up later was directly related to not receiving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) — a protein that breaks down blood clots — in the ER. These proteins usually work if administered within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms.  

· African-Americans were less likely to have the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale administered. Doctors use the scale to access the severity of stroke in patients.  

The main conclusion: To improve care, African-American patients must arrive at the hospital quicker, and this depends on knowing the symptoms of strokes and calling 911. That can be the difference between life and death.

But this message may not being heard.

In May 2011, reported on another study which found that African-Americans are the least likely to call 911 when a loved one is having a stroke — they would call a family member instead. This is incredibly problematic given that African-Americans are more likely to die from strokes than any other racial group.

Would you know if your loved one was having stroke?

Here are some common warning signs:

—Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, often on only one side of the body

—Sudden confusion and trouble speaking or understanding others

—Sudden difficulty seeing

—Sudden trouble walking, feelings of dizziness and loss of balance or coordination

—Sudden severe headache of unknown cause

To learn more about strokes, prevention and warning signs go here.

 (Photo: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi /Landov)