Should I Drive a Stroke Patient to the Hospital or Not?

The short answer from a cerebrovascular expert

looking inside the back of an ambulance with an empty stretcher inside

Q: Is driving a stroke patient to the hospital better than waiting for an ambulance?

A: While driving a stroke patient to the hospital may initially seem like the best choice, calling 911 for an ambulance is the fastest way to get life-saving treatment to a stroke patient.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A stroke is a medical emergency, and time is of the essence. The more time that passes between the stroke and treatment, the greater the risk of brain damage, and the harder it becomes to reverse symptoms. Early treatment with medications and other interventions can preserve brain tissue and prevent long-term disability and/or death.

The 911 operators know which hospitals are designated as stroke centers and can best provide care. Interventions can begin en route in the ambulance or the mobile stroke treatment unit.

Mobile stroke treatment units are essentially intensive care units on wheels. The unit’s team, guided by a stroke specialist back at the hospital, can examine and perform blood tests as well as CT scans on the patient. If indicated, they can start clot-busting drugs. This process saves precious time compared with driving to the hospital.

If you notice the signs of stroke in someone nearby, call 911 immediately to give them the best chance for long-term recovery.

In the meantime, if the person seems weak, encourage them to sit or lie down so that they don’t fall, and avoid giving them aspirin or water. Aspirin increases the risk of bleeding if the stroke was caused by a hemorrhage and water poses a choking hazard.

—Cerebrovascular specialist Zeshaun Khawaja, MD, MBA

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Legs of healthcare provider and patient during rehabilitation
What Are the Differences in Left vs. Right Brain Strokes?

Strokes in the left side of the brain are more common and the effects are typically more noticeable

Split screen: poisonous plant/venomous insect
April 24, 2024/Primary Care
What It Means To Be Poisonous vs. Venomous

Poisons are inhaled, ingested or absorbed by your skin, while venoms are delivered by bites and stings

Person having a heart attack in background, close up of hand calling 911 on cell phone in foreground
February 28, 2024/Heart Health
Can You Stop a Heart Attack Once It Starts?

There’s no way to stop it once a heart attack is happening, but the most important thing you can do is to call for help

Person enjoying container of assorted fruit
February 28, 2024/Heart Health
How To Protect Your Heart When You Have Prediabetes

You can counter the risk of prediabetes-related heart attack or stroke by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as exercising regularly

Caregiver and elderly male with head bent down
February 2, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
After Your Stroke: How To Handle 14 Common Complications

Your age, the type of stroke you had, the cause and the location can all impact your recovery

Healthy meal of salmon, brown rice and broccoli with peas on a white plate.
September 28, 2023/Brain & Nervous System
10 Tips for Changing Your Diet After a Stroke

It can be overwhelming, but habit changes help lower your risk of another stroke

Toddler eating cucumbers in mother's arms
June 25, 2023/Children's Health
Choking First Aid and Prevention in Children

Cut up foods into small pieces and make sure you sit down and focus during meals

Small white bowls filled with rice and chili on colorful background.
November 1, 2022/Recipes
The Best Foods to Stock up on in Case of an Emergency

Keep healthy foods on hand, like tuna packets, canned veggies and fruits, and beans and rice

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey