New study could improve outcomes for stroke patients

Jamie Arrowsmith – Tuesday 8th August 2023 – 9.40am

A study looking at improving stroke care by taking patients directly to a specialist centre could help hundreds of people make a better recovery from stroke.  

The SPEEDY trial is being carried out by West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) in partnership with Newcastle University. It is being funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.  

Patients with clots blocking the large blood vessels of their brain may be treated with thrombectomy, where the clot is pulled out directly using a tiny cage at the end of a flexible tube.  

At the moment, patients are usually taken to their local stroke hospital first, before being taken to specialist thrombectomy centres. As part of the trial, WMAS was the first ambulance to service to test out the new pathway where patients are taken directly to thrombectomy centres, with North West Ambulance Service now also taking part, and more set to join.  

Thrombectomy is a highly specialised procedure and only a few hospitals are able to provide it. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham and Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke are two of the hospitals which perform the procedure in the West Midlands.  

There are approximately 100,000 strokes in the UK each year, which equates to one every five minutes. The SPEEDY trial is looking to assess more than 500 patients who receive a thrombectomy before evaluating the outcome of the study.  

WMAS Research Paramedic Josh Miller, said: “We hope this research will speed up people’s access to the brain-saving treatment.  

“We also think it will mean more people can access this treatment – around 10% of stroke patients could be suitable for thrombectomy, but at the moment, only about 2% receive it.  

“If more people receive thrombectomy, more quickly, patients will have better outcomes – returning to life as normal after their stroke.  

“It is important to emphasise that nothing changes in terms of what members of the public should do if they think someone is having a stroke. The FAST test remains the right thing to do to monitor symptoms, and if you have any concerns, you should dial 999 immediately”.  

Professor Chris Price, from Newcastle University, said: “Thrombectomy greatly improves the chances of recovery but it must be done within the first few hours of a stroke starting and is only possible in hospitals that have suitable facilities and specialists.  

“The SPEEDY study is seeing whether ambulance services and thrombectomy hospitals can work together in an emergency to accurately identify patients needing thrombectomy and treat them sooner.”  


Notes to Editors:  

Josh Miller is available for interview today (Tuesday 8th August) until 6pm. Please call 01384 215560 to arrange.

The FAST test:  

Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call 999: if you see any of these signs.  

SPEEDY is short for specialist pre-hospital redirection for ischaemic stroke thrombectomy  

For more information about the SPEEDY trial, click here

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