A "world-leading" technique is now being used by a handful of District Health Boards to treat stroke patients.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman visited Auckland DHB today and heard from clinical experts and a patient about the ground-breaking stroke treatment where blood clots are surgically removed.
“Around 90 New Zealanders have already benefited from this new technique called endovascular clot removal,” says Dr Coleman. “This technique is world-leading best practice and is being offered across the three Auckland DHBs and Northland as a result of regional co-operation, as well as Capital & Coast and Canterbury DHBs."
To help further drive improvements across the DHBs there are two stroke indicators which are reported on every three months.
The first indicator looks at the number of eligible stroke patients receiving thrombolytic therapy which is where drugs are used to breakdown dangerous blood clots in the brain. This treatment is suitable for only a small minority of stroke patients.
“The latest figures show our rates are in line with international benchmarks with 7.9 per cent of eligible patients receiving this treatment. That’s up from 7 per cent six months ago and above the national target of 6 per cent."
All DHBs now offer stroke thrombolysis, but it is not available 24/7 at some DHBs as it requires specialist level care.
Capital & Coast DHB has now implemented a tele-stroke thrombolysis service to help support smaller DHBs in delivering this treatment. This involves neurologists in Wellington assisting colleagues in four regional hospitals by providing remote assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
“Over the course of a successful six-month pilot, that ran from 1 June through 1 December 2016, 164 patients assessments have been carried out by Wellington-based neurologists. Around 25 per cent received clot busting medicines.
Coleman says the second indicator relates to the admission to an acute stroke unit which is happening in just over 77 per cent of cases, an increase from nearly 73 per cent six months earlier. The target of 80 per cent was achieved or exceeded by 12 of 20 DHBs.
“This shows that hospitals are also getting better at identifying stroke patients and moving them to specialist units quicker,” he says.
“Around 9,000 people have a stroke each year in New Zealand. Early identification and treatment is crucial to reduce the likelihood of brain damage and lasting harm."