TMH Living Well: TMH partners with Swedish Hospital to offer Telestroke services
May 8, 2015
Each year, stroke accounts for 1 in 20 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Since it's National Stroke Awareness Month, it's the perfect time to learn more about stroke and how it's treated. TMH has recently improved stroke services in your area.
With stroke, timing is everything. Getting care fast can make the difference between a mild disability and a major loss of function. That's why TMH has teamed up with one of the top telestroke programs in the state. Stroke-trained neurologists with HealthONE and Swedish Medical Center are available 24/7 to patients who are suspected of having a stroke. The fact that the expert is talking to patients and families via robotic equipment hardly matters.
"It's a smooth process. The stroke specialist at Swedish controls the robot so he or she can truly examine the patient, and can even do an eye exam to look for stroke signs. The high-definition audio-visual component is really clear," said Dr. Tinh Huyn, Emergency Medicine physician with TMH.
Dr. Huyn lists several benefits to the new telestroke program — including 24/7 access to a team of stroke specialists, expert diagnoses, less need for transferring patients to other hospitals, and most importantly, quicker care.
The quicker a patient can receive clot-busting medicine or another treatment, the better the outcome. Neurologists in the telemedicine program typically call back within five minutes.
"The neurologist examines the patient and collaborates with local doctors on the best treatment, including, when applicable, administration of t-PA," said Natalie Walker, Telemedicine Operations Manager with HealthONE.
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There are two types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and both demand different treatment. Ischemic stroke is sometimes referred to as a "heart attack in the brain." Like with heart attacks, a blood clot blocks oxygen to a vital organ. With ischemic stroke, blood clots occur in the brain and the longer a patient goes without treatment the more damage there is to the brain. According to Walker, "the stroke mantra is 'Time is Brain.'"
"With reduced blood flow, tissue starts dying, so the quicker we can break up a clot or treat bleeding in the brain the more brain tissue we can potentially save," Huyn added.
Clot dissolving medication known as thrombolytics (e.g. t-PA) is used to treat ischemic stroke, but not hemorrhagic stroke that involves bleeding in the brain. According to the CDC, 87 percent of strokes are ischemic.
It has become fairly common for outlying hospitals to rely on neurologists at a certified comprehensive stroke center for stroke diagnoses. It makes sense. Patients get expert care quickly and close at home. TMH sees several stroke patients every year.
"We are excited to provide the best, most up- to-date care to our critically ill patients in Northwest Colorado," stated John Rossfeld, CEO at The Memorial Hospital.
If you have certain risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes, talk to your doctor about lowering your stroke risk. Lifestyle matters with stroke; a healthy diet and regular exercise helps prevent stroke.
The telestroke program began on May 5. It is just one more way TMH has geared up to best serve our community.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.