Faster treatment for stroke victims – Alberta research sets a new world standard

Mar 13, 2017

Every second counts is an understatement when it comes to ischemic stroke.

An ischemic stroke blocks blood supply to the brain. When this happens, about two million brain cells die every minute and about 12 kilometres of neural connections are lost. After 60 minutes, those numbers become even more significant: 120 million brain cells and 720 kilometres of neural connections. Everything must be done to avert further loss of neural function, which in the end can cause significant disability and even loss of life.

The standard time in Alberta—known as door-to-needle time—to diagnose a patient after arriving at a hospital with a stroke and then injecting tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator) to prevent further neural damage, was about 70 minutes.
That time was recently reduced to 32 minutes by a team of Alberta researchers out of the University of Calgary led by Dr. Michael Hill, a stroke neurologist and principal investigator of a research program, funded by Alberta Innovates, called QuICR (pronounced ‘quicker’).

Thanks to Dr. Hill and his team’s work, Alberta’s 17 stroke treatment centres are now among the fastest in the world in giving patients the clot-busting drug. Covenant Health’s Grey Nuns Hospital currently holds the provincial record for the case with the fastest door-to-needle time, at six minutes.

QuICR—or Quality Improvement & Clinical Research – Alberta Stroke Program—is an Alberta Innovates funded program and the result of a multiyear quality improvement initiative. It includes a large number of professionals working together. When someone is admitted to the hospital with a potential stroke diagnosis, a lab technician might draw blood while the patient has a CT scan, while elsewhere a history is being collected from a family member and the tPA is being prepared.

“We know that by doing better, we can improve outcomes for patients by preventing or limiting long-term disabilities. And when we can give stroke patients better chances to fully recover, we also eliminate potential downstream costs to the health system,” says Dr. Hill.

The QuICR team is doing tremendous work to improve outcomes for patients by reducing stroke treatment times in Alberta. Alberta Innovates is proud to play an integral role in supporting the QuICR team. This type of innovative and outside-the-box thinking is critical and has achieved meaningful results by improving the lives of stroke sufferers not only in Alberta, but around the world.Laura Kilcrease, Alberta Innovates CEO

Front row L to R: Angela MacNiell, Ian MacNiell, Rick Travis, Cindy Travis
Back row L to R: Noreen Kamal, QuICR Program Manager, Sharon Kiszczak, Emergency Department Nurse, Dr. Michael Hill, Neurologist – Principal Investigator, QuICR