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How Does Telestroke Technology Help Patients?

October 18, 2016 | Dr. Shankar Kurra

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telestroke-technology.jpgTwo million brain cells die every minute during a stroke.

That’s why, for stroke victims, every second counts. Delaying treatment can make a huge difference in recovery times and quality of life. Unfortunately, not every hospital has the staff available to give stroke patients the best possible care.

While Fisher-Titus Medical Center has maintained Primary Stroke Certification since 2007— which means that it has the capacity to stabilize and treat stroke patients—it recently took its care to the next level by joining the University of Toledo Medical Center Stroke Network. The network uses telestroke technology to connect patients with highly trained specialists who are not located on-site.

Telestroke technology bridges that gap by enabling highly trained specialists to remotely assess stroke patients and then direct emergency room doctors in the critical moments following a stroke.

So how does telestroke technology work?

The UTMC Stroke Network is a prime example: it is part of a network of hospitals that are connected to one centralized, larger hospital. The central hospital must have expertise in stroke management and high-quality teleconferencing equipment, which they can use to communicate with emergency room physicians at the network hospitals.

For patients, this means they are able to receive care orchestrated by the UTMC Stroke Team, which includes two of the top vascular and interventional neurologists in the region, Dr. Mouhammad Jumaa and Dr. Syed Zaidi.

The Stroke Team can perform a virtual examination on a stroke patient, view radiological studies, talk with family members and develop a state-of-the-art treatment plan. This network allows stroke patients to receive some of the best care in the region when time is of the essence without having to be transferred to the University of Toledo Medical Center. The patient can be quickly transported if rapid and direct intervention is required.

Here’s an example of how the technology should be used, as outlined in an abstract in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A 75-year-old woman who lives in a rural area feels the left side of her face begin to droop. Her speech is slurred and her left arm and leg feel numb. She arrives at her local hospital at 4:21 p.m. The emergency department physician examines her and initiates a stroke alert. Blood samples are drawn, a CT is completed and—perhaps most importantly—the hospital activates the Telestroke hotline. An on-call stroke neurologist quickly responds and the Telestroke camera system is placed in front of the patient and the consultation begins at 5:08 p.m.

The patient and her family interact with the stroke neurologist via the camera. The stroke neurologist can zoom in on the cardiac monitor to observe the patient's electrocardiographic results, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturations. During the examination, the stroke neurologist also can simultaneously access the CT results. The patient’s score on the National Institute of Health stroke scale is determined to be a 6.

The neurologist next uses the camera system to talk to both the emergency physician and the patient’s daughter to discuss the plan for care. At 5:53 p.m., the stroke neurologist recommends the administration of a drug called tissue plasminogen activator—tPA—that dissolves clots and restores blood flow.

The time between the stroke and the treatment was about two hours. The drug tPA usually is only administered within three hours after a stroke (up to 4½ hours under certain conditions). That’s why it’s critical for potential stroke victims to be taken to the hospital immediately—and for the hospital to work quickly and competently using Telestroke technology if necessary.

Telestroke medicine can make a huge difference in the quality of life of stroke victims. One study found that three months after their stroke, up to half of the patients who received timely treatment were able to live their daily lives without significant problems.

Contact us to learn more about Telestroke technology and how it has saved lives today. This year, World Stroke Day is October 29 to raise awareness about stroke, recognizing the signs early and quick access to professional care.

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