Stroke patients in rural areas face lower quality care, higher risk of death

X-ray film shows lateral skull with evidence of stroke event in the brain.

Stroke patients in rural areas are less likely to get the most advanced medical treatments and are more likely to die before leaving the hospital than those treated in urban areas, according to an NHLBI-funded study published in Stroke. The study underscores the need to improve access to high-quality stroke care for people in rural-areas, the researchers say.

In the study, researchers examined national health data on almost 800,000 adults hospitalized with stroke between 2012-2017 from a large national inpatient health care database. Compared with stroke patients treated at urban hospitals, the researchers found that stroke patients treated at rural hospitals were about half as likely to receive clot-busting medication to treat strokes caused by clots and about one third-less likely to undergo a procedure to remove a stroke-causing clot. The researchers also found that rural stroke patients were more likely to die of any type of stroke before leaving the hospital.  There was no improvement in the rural-urban disparity over stroke during the 5-year period examined.