HARLINGEN — New research shows that Hispanics in the Rio Grande Valley and other border regions are less likely to receive medications to treat strokes and 30 percent more likely to die from a stroke than non-Hispanic patients, according to information from Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.
The research conducted by six neurologists, including Dr. Ameer Hassan and Dr. Wondwossen Tekle with VBMC suggests that Hispanics in border states may wait too long to seek treatment for strokes.
“Our research suggests that many Hispanic patients along the border may be sleeping on a stroke, figuring that they will feel better in the morning,” Hassan said. “As a result, they are not getting to the hospital in time to be treated with the stroke-reversing medication in the emergency room.”
At most Valley hospitals, treatment with medication is limited to within three to four and a half hours after the initial onset of stroke symptoms of a stroke. But VBMC has extended the time window by introducing new endovascular stroke procedures in a specially-equipped “bi-plane” neurovascular angiography suite in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, hospital officials said.
“This enables us to double the time window for treatment and to treat more stroke victims,” Hassan said. “Basically, we are giving people a chance, people who otherwise would have poor outcomes after a stroke. But of course, it’s still critical to get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
Before the hospital introduced endovascular stroke procedures in 2012, it was able to treat 3 to 5 percent of its patients with the stroke-reversing medication, Hassan said.
“Now we are able to treat up to 30 percent of the patients by taking many of them to the cath lab, if they come in too late to be treated in the emergency room.”
Treatment clears blockages in the blood vessels leading to a patient’s brain, allowing blood and oxygen to once again reach the brain and prevent or minimize disabilities from the stroke.
Hassan’s research looked at several recent studies and 2011 data from a nationwide sample of 34,904 Hispanic patients who were admitted to hospitals with ischemic stroke, that is strokes caused by clots that obstruct blood vessels
Of 21,130 Hispanic stroke patients in states along the Mexican border, only 4.8 percent were able to receive treatment with stroke medication, compared to 5.7 percent of non-Hispanic patients in those states.
“After adjusting for age, gender, and other confounding risk factors, Hispanics were 30 percent more likely to suffer in-hospital mortality versus their non-Hispanic counterparts in border states,” Hassan said. “This disparity was not apparent in the non-border states.”