Health Matters: Faster, High-Tech Stroke Treatment

BENTON, Ark. - Telemedicine technology in the emergency room is helping doctors at Saline Memorial Hospital analyze and treat stroke patients.

"They're then able to discuss in real time, the risks the benefits of using that medication and make a decision on whether to give it or not," says Lee Lessenberry, AR Saves Director.

It's called Arkansas Saves, a program that gets a Vascular Neurologist in the emergency room, LIVE with a two-way video. Emergency physicians say it's hard to find that type of doctor in all hospitals to evaluate the patient first hand.

"We don't have a stroke neurologist on call where they can come down and evaluate the patients, so it's great to get them on the line within a few minutes," says Brian Baird, Emergency Physician.

Through LIVE streaming video, Vascular Neurologists determine if the stroke victim will need TPA, a drug that can help most stroke victims fully recover.

"About a third of people who have a stroke and have a neurological deficit will have near complete or complete recovery in about 3-6 months," he says.

Doctors recommend patients get the clot-busting drug within 3 to 4 hours of a stroke. In a busy month, up to 25 patients will get TPA through the program.

"It's access. In the past, people could not get this medication outside of just very few hospitals nationwide," says Lessenberry.

Arkansas Saves was created to make the medication available on a widespread basis.

"Pretty amazing when you think that 5 or 6 years ago none of those patients would've gotten it," says Lessenberry.

Health officials say rural hospitals in the state lack staff resources to accurately identify and manage patients who may need TPA. Arkansas Saves was designed to help fill the void.

To keep up with Susanne Brunner's health reports, you can click here and like her Facebook page.

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