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Brain injuries need care sooner

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 25, 2011 08:38

Trauma patients with major brain injuries are not getting to specialized neurosurgeons fast enough.

A study of transportation times for traumatic brain injury patients in Nova Scotia, published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Trauma, states that those patients should and could be in the care of Halifax-based neurosurgeons within three hours but that the current average transportation time is five hours.

"When you get beyond three to four hours, your likelihood of dying from a brain injury begins to increase significantly," said Dr. David Clarke, director of the neurotrauma program at the Capital district health authority.

"We need to look at ways to streamline transportation of brain-injured patients directly to Halifax so that they receive the best neurosurgical care sooner."

Clarke, who led the study along with Dr. John Tallon, said that between ambulances, a helicopter and a plane, Nova Scotia has the emergency transportation infrastructure to get patients to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre within three hours.

The delay in getting patients with brain injuries to Halifax happens while they are being stabilized and assessed at the nearest hospital. He suggested that, on average, the delay for those patients is about 2½ hours.

"You may have a hemorrhage that may need to be taken out urgently, which could cause the patient to die," said Clarke.

"The only place you have that kind of specialized service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is in Halifax."

The study found that the majority of brain trauma patients fit within two groups — young men, often involved in motor vehicle accidents, and senior citizens who have suffered falls.

The next step, said Clarke, is to figure out the changes that need to be made to get those emergency patients to Halifax sooner.

"Making steps to ensure that the injured receive the necessary emergency care within the required amount of time can significantly improve health outcomes," Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald said in a news release.

"As part of our Better Care Sooner plan, we’re continuing to make emergency care more efficient . . . and this research gives us the opportunity to work closely with our health partners to improve trauma care for Nova Scotians and their families."