When a stroke occurs, every second counts. Having access to health care professionals who can identify the signs of stroke and administer treatment quickly can mean the difference between full recovery and long-term disability.
Fortunately, stroke patients at Minden Medical Center (MMC) now have immediate access to highly specialized vascular neurologists as the result of a partnership between Minden Medical Center and Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans (Ochsner).
Through this network, emergency department physicians have the ability to consult in real time with Ochsner vascular neurologists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year using telemedicine equipment to determine the best treatment options for stroke patients.
“Traditionally, when a stroke patient arrives in the Emergency Department at Minden Medical Center, a stroke expert is not readily available to assist the Emergency team with diagnosis and treatment,” said George E. French, III, Chief Executive Officer. “We approached Ochsner about implementing a telemedicine system which will help to improve the stroke care we currently deliver. Use of a telemedicine system allows patients and physicians to directly connect with the Ochsner Stroke Team within minutes of arrival, and has been shown to dramatically improve the use of clot-busting drugs to reduce stroke disability.” He continued, “Decreasing the impact of a stroke is important to our patients which helped in our decision to provide this care to our community members.”
Telemedicine programs improve the quality of care for patients outside of urban areas by allowing them access to specialists and by reducing the costs associated with travel and the time spent away from work and family. “If you don’t live near a major hospital, you shouldn’t have fewer options,” says Liz Cothren, Director of Telemedicine at Ochsner. “With the push of a button, within seconds of getting on an Internet browser, we’re able to interact with a provider,” added Cothren.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and serious, long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, approximately 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year, and 87 percent of these are ischemic strokes. Ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that stops the flow of blood to the brain and deprives the surrounding brain tissue of oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, the brain cells in the immediate area begin to die, causing permanent brain damage, disability or death. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, so immediate medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.
“We are always seeking ways to improve the quality of care offered to our patients and are very excited to be able to offer this new technology to the residents of the Minden and Northwest Louisiana area,” said Donna Carter, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Minden.
Now, when a patient comes into the emergency department at Minden Medical Center with the symptoms of an acute ischemic stroke, a computer with an advanced webcam will be brought to the bedside where the clinical team will connect with a vascular neurologist on call at Ochsner. The neurologist, patient and clinical team at Minden Medical Center can see and speak to each other throughout the consult. The physician will examine the patient and review the CAT scan of the patient’s head, providing guidance on advanced treatments within minutes.
In many cases, Telestroke consultation will allow patients to stay at Minden Medical Center. In more complicated cases the patient may need to be transferred to Ochsner or another facility for specialized treatment. Telestroke is still beneficial in these cases because the neurologist will have already met and started treating the patient.
If you suspect a stroke, remember the word F-A-S-T.
Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
Time – If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
The primary stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the face or facial drooping
- Sudden numbness or weakness in an arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause