The readers’ forum

Reducing the impact of stroke in South Florida


There is a killer at work in South Florida. Between 2010 and 2012, stroke killed almost 5,000 people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties combined. Nationally, the damage is just as devastating. Almost 800,000 people suffer a stroke each year, causing more than 130,000 deaths, making stroke the fourth-leading cause of mortality.

The good news is that death rates are declining — falling more than 30 percent from 1995 to 2005 — largely because of campaigns that educate on risk factors, stroke symptoms and the optimal treatment window. The war on stroke has also been waged on other fronts. Since FDA approval of the “clot-busting” tissue plasminogen activator, scientific advancements have introduced NeuroInterventional techniques and devices that have expanded the treatment window from three hours to eight. Stroke-care delivery has improved, with emergency transport guidelines and certifications that define specific personnel, equipment and treatment criteria that hospitals must meet to be deemed a primary or comprehensive stroke center.

South Florida has risen to the challenge. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties there are seven comprehensive and primary stroke centers like the Baptist Hospital Stroke Program in which I practice. Our firefighters, doctors and local hospitals have formed the FOAM-D Stroke Consortium, one of the largest networks for transporting and treating stroke victims in the nation. This network helps to ensure that patients are appropriately assessed on the scene and transported to an appropriate hospital that is properly equipped to treat stroke.

While the results of these efforts are commendable, there is still more work to be done. NeuroIntervention, its success evident in thousands of lives saved, must continue to be evaluated in clinical trials. Patient registries are critical to ensuring process improvement and better outcomes. And hospitals must embrace coordinated care models that leverage the expertise of specialists from various backgrounds to ensure optimal patient care.

The Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery is in Miami this week as part a national stroke summit tour to advance the dialogue among the “stroke team” professionals involved in the diagnosis, treatment and management of stroke. These summits will welcome first responders, emergency-room physicians, radiologists, neurologists and NeuroInterventional surgeons, and others who specialize in stroke treatment to discuss trends, treatment advancements and best practices in stroke care delivery in the hospital setting.

Someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States, but researchers, physicians, advocates and lawmakers have proven themselves undeterred in the face of this enemy. I am proud of our work in Miami to reduce the impact of stroke. Building on our accomplishments, and with this new initiative to advance the dialogue around treatment options within the hospital environment, the battle is ours to win.

Guilherme Dabus, director, Fellowship Program in Interventional Neuroradiology and NeuroInterventional Surgery,

Baptist Hospital, Miami

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