Physicians Call on States to Ensure All Stroke Patients Have Access to Life-Saving Treatment

Nearly 130,000 people in the U.S. die from stroke each year — a number that the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS) says could be dramatically reduced.

The vast majority of strokes — 87 percent— are ischemic strokes, caused by a blocked artery in the brain. Rapid access to stroke surgery (endovascular treatment) for patients having an ischemic stroke caused by an emergent large vessel occlusion can reduce stroke mortality and serious disability by half. Currently, outdated state policies and regulations prevent more than 90 percent of stroke patients with large vessel occlusion from getting the most effective treatment.

“Nearly two million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated. This is just one reason why the actual stroke treatment that patients receive is so important,” says Donald Frei, MD, a neurointerventional surgeon with Radiology Imaging Associates in Denver, Colorado, and president of SNIS. “We know that speed matters when it comes to treating stroke, but so does the procedure itself. Patients need to receive stroke surgery within six hours of a large vessel occlusion stroke if we want to maximize their chances of walking away from it.”

Frei says that’s why SNIS launched “Get Ahead of Stroke,” a campaign focused on organizing stronger stroke systems of care nationwide. The objective is to enact legislative change in all 50 states requiring emergency medical services (EMS) to take ischemic stroke patients with large vessel occlusion to neurointerventional-ready hospitals with 24/7/365 coverage.

Fewer than half of states have legislation that establishes stroke systems of care. In states that do, most of the legislation is dated and does not align with the best standards of care, including the 24/7 availability of a neurointerventionalist. Almost everyone in the U.S. is within an hour of a neurointerventionalist who can remove blood clots from a blocked artery, but most EMS personnel aren’t trained to identify these strokes.

Furthermore, EMS personnel often are not authorized to take patients to stroke centers with neurointerventional care or across state lines to access a neurointerventional-ready hospital.

Strokes in the U.S. cost about $34 billion annually, including health services and missed work. Endovascular treatment for large vessel occlusion strokes has the potential to save billions across the system, from reduced hospital stays, fewer missed days of work and lower long-term care costs.

“Three out of four patients who experience a large vessel occlusion stroke are dead or disabled in 90 days. We know that endovascular treatment saves lives and reduces disability. That’s why we do the work we do — to save more lives and help survivors of stroke live better lives,” says Frei.

About the “Get Ahead of Stroke” Campaign

“Get Ahead of Stroke” is a national public education and advocacy campaign designed to improve systems of care for stroke patients. An initiative of SNIS, the campaign’s goal is to secure the best possible outcomes for stroke patients by driving policy change and public awareness nationwide. Visit to learn more.

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