A recently developed process will help streamline initial emergency care for stroke patients.

The Severity-based Stroke Triage Algorithm developed by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association provides ambulance crews with information and tools to better identify a stroke, assess a patient’s condition and determine the best hospital for specific treatment needs.

A diverse group of healthcare professionals, including EMS and all levels of the hospital-based stroke care teams, designed the algorithm. It’s broad enough to be applied across the country and flexible enough to be tailored to individual communities, said Peter D. Panagos, M.D., co-chair of the AHA/ASA’s Mission Lifeline: Stroke committee that helped oversee and develop the algorithm.

“The new algorithm is needed as new innovations in stroke treatment emerge, such as catheters used to remove large clots in the brain,” Panagos said.

“Although the intravenous use of tissue plasminogen activator … is still the most common standard for treating many strokes, these newer endovascular treatments are appropriate in certain cases. However, they require specific equipment and specially-trained personnel that aren’t available at all hospitals, especially those in rural or suburban areas.”

The algorithm puts more responsibility on EMS to provide fast, appropriate triage for the most severely impaired stroke patients. It calls for first responders to use a regionally approved stroke severity tool to help identify a larger ischemic stroke that may require both intravenous and endovascular thrombectomy treatments.

“With these available treatment options, the challenge is identifying severe strokes early, before arrival at the hospital, to get patients to the right facility to get the right therapy in the right amount of time,” Panagos said.