New Legislation to Help Stroke Patients

HARRISBURG -- On this last day of May, which is Stroke Awareness Month, we have an update on legislation that's on the governor's desk, ready to be signed. It has to do with stroke patients and the best way to get them to the right place.

When it comes to strokes, there's an expression: Time is brain. Time is even represented in the acronym used to spot a stroke, FAST: face drooping, arm raising, speech difficulties, and time to call 911.

New legislation just passed in Harrisburg is addressing that time part even further.

"You get immediate help, and with this legislation we've now passed, 911 is educated getting patients in the right place, for the right time, for the right treatment," said Dr. Edgar Kenton, stroke neurologist.

Dr. Kenton is a stroke neurologist and chair of the stroke task force for the Great Rivers Affiliate of the American Heart Association, which covers five states including Pennsylvania.

He explained that back in 2012, Stroke Act 54 was signed into law, marking certain hospitals as primary stroke centers. Since then, two more tiers have been added, making some facilities stroke-ready hospitals and others comprehensive stroke centers.

Dr. Kenton says this better helps dispatchers and emergency responders find the right place for that patient.

He says half a dozen clinical trials in the last two years have come up with the same conclusion.

"If you get a patient who has a major vessel inclusion, a clot in a major vessel, to a comprehensive stroke center, 91% of patients, if they get there in two and a half hours, have little or no deficit."

House Bill 23 was introduced last fall, passed the House in April, and passed the Senate a few weeks ago. It's now on the governor's desk for signature.

According to Dr. Kenton, 18 other states have adopted similar legislation.

"Faster is better. That's what it amounts to. Time is brain."

Dr. Kenton says the two things to remember when someone may be having a stroke is, first as we mentioned already, the FAST acronym. The second is to get help, not by calling a doctor or a loved one, but by calling 911.

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