Audit data shows that 55 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with suspected stroke wait more than 24 hours to undergo a diagnostic MRI.
A sub-analysis of the stroke audit of all hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2006 shows that although 93 per cent of patients are scanned after admission, just 9 per cent were scanned within three hours of suspected stroke and 45 per cent within 24 hours.
But the delay was not due to a lack of MRI scanners, but bad organisation, say researchers from the Intercollegiate Stroke Group at the Royal College of Physicians who presented the data at the European Stroke Conference in Nice, France, last week.
Looking at when scanning takes place around the clock, it is evident they are mostly carried out between 9am and 5pm - with a noticeable trough around 1pm, leading the researchers to conclude that there is ‘spare capacity during the lunch hour.
Dr Tony Rudd, chair of the Intercollegiate Stroke Group at the Royal College of Physicians, told GP: ‘The scanners are idle at night, the issue is not that we've not got enough brain scanners it's more about how effectively we've used the ones we've got.'
Updated audit data from 2007 is expected to be published in August, but Dr Rudd said while the outcome is unknown, he would ‘be surprised if it had changed very much'.
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