Lead author Dr. Adam Kelly, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said brain imaging is an essential tool in the diagnosis of a stroke and determines which treatment to pursue. Strokes caused by a blockage in one of the arteries that serve the brain -- ischemic strokes -- are candidates for the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, which can restore blood flow and improve clinical outcomes.
However, this drug cannot be used when the symptoms are instead caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.
"It is therefore essential that physicians are able to 'see' what is occurring in the brain, and quickly," Kelly said in a statement. "We were struck by the fact that less than half of patients with acute stroke symptoms did not receive a brain scan within recommended guidelines."
The study published in the journal Stroke found individuals were less likely to receive timely brain scans if:
-- The patient did not arrive at the hospital by ambulance.
-- The patients were not white.
-- The patients had certain risk factors for stroke such as diabetes, a prior history of stroke, were age 75 and older and peripheral vascular disease.