Air ambulance services play a critical part in providing medical care on time for stroke victims. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 795 thousand people suffer strokes every year in the United States of America. Up to 140 thousand of these people die of stroke. Approximately 610 thousand people have never experienced stroke before. To put these numbers into perspective, one person has a stroke every 40 seconds on average in the country. All these people need air ambulance services to receive care on time. If not, they are at risk of suffering disability for the rest of their life.
Air Ambulance Services are Time Critical in Stroke
It is said that the chances of survival and complete recovery improve drastically if the patient receives care within the first three hours of the stroke. Air ambulance services play a major role in ensuring that this. The fact that rural doctors are moving towards urban areas and the reality that rural hospitals are closing at a rapid rate makes air ambulance services for such regions critical and life-saving. These patients are in need of high-level care facilities equipped to handle this medical condition.
The Economics of Stroke
In the US, cost of stroke treatment is approximately USD 34 billion annually. This includes the cost of care, medicines and loss of work revenue due to medical absence. Despite this, insurances only cover about 30 to 40% of the cost related to air ambulance services. Why? Because the reimbursement rates have not been revised for over 20 years, which puts a lot of financial strain on air ambulance services. The result – medical flight service providers are closing at a rapid rate, especially in rural America. If something is not done about this by the congress, it could turn out to be a grave situation for the people in the near future.
Stroke is one of the top causes of death and long-term disability in the United States. Leaving a stroke untreated for one minute would result in about 1.9 million neurons being destroyed. If it’s untreated for an hour, the brain loses neurons equal to neuron loss occurring from 3.6 years of regular aging. This makes it crucial for a medical flight crew to conduct thorough assessment and provide necessary care for stroke patients or suspected stroke patients.
Detecting Symptoms of Stroke
If stroke is suspected, it is crucial to rush the patient to a facility that can rapidly assess and diagnose the condition in addition to providing treatment. However, many patients deny the symptoms. As a medical flight crew responding to a call in such cases, it’s important that you try to determine if the patient experienced or is experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sudden confusion
- Sudden vision trouble (one eye or both eyes)
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden trouble with walking
- Sudden numbness or weakness around the face, arm, or leg
- Dizziness/loss of coordination
- Speech issues/trouble understanding
Providing Necessary Care to Stroke Patients as a Medical Flight Crew
Managing patients showcasing stroke symptoms requires team effort. With it being a time-dependent patient, you will need to have a protocol in place for providing organized and quick pre-hospital care to such patients. Although you may have a limited ability in terms of resources to provide care for a stroke patient, it would make a huge difference for you to alert a Stroke Team or make plans for rapid transportation to a stroke center.
During the transportation, try to carry out general neurological assessments as possible. Providing oxygen and, monitoring cardiac function, and drawing blood for labs, etc. should be quickly accomplished to streamline and expedite the care process.