The new findings are based on Medicare claims data for more than 370,000 Americans who suffered an ischemic stroke in 2011.
Just 4 percent received tPA, while 0.5 percent underwent an endovascular procedure. Based on the researchers' estimates, 56 percent of Americans live within an hour of a center that performs endovascular procedures -- and 85 percent could be transported to one by helicopter within an hour.
It's not clear, though, how many stroke patients should be getting endovascular therapy, Ovbiagele said. For one, the procedure can be done only when a larger blood vessel is blocked. And although it can dislodge a blood clot, Ovbiagele said, studies have not yet shown that the procedure improves patients' outlooks.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The bottom line for the general public, Tobleman said, is "don't wait and wonder if you're having a stroke."
People often hesitate to call 911 out of worry their symptoms really are nothing, Tobleman said. "Some patients say they didn't want to bother us," he said. "Please bother us. It's our job."
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have more on stroke treatment.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.