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Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 05:00 AM

New technology to help stroke victims

What if a neurologist could appear next to a stroke victim right when help is needed most?

Thanks to a new technology at Marshall Medical Centers, they can.

The North Alabama Neurostroke Network connects 10 hospitals, including Marshall North and South, using video-capable computers. Marshall Medical Centers will be communicating with neurologists at Huntsville Hospital.

A telestroke network places a neurologist at the bedside of a stroke victim in the critical first minutes when immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and prevent death.

“Teleneurology is being used in many hospitals across the country, even in larger facilities, to deal with the lack of emergency neurology coverage in many communities.”  - Gary Gore, CEO of Marshall Medical Centers.

What difference does it make?

Having a neurologist available immediately after a stroke occurs allows them to determine whether or not to administer the life-saving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Only a short window exists for the medication to be administered in order for it to reduce damage from a stroke.

Most patients don’t reach a hospital in time to receive tPA treatment. That is why it is important to identify a stroke immediately and why having a neurologist available makes all the difference.

How does it work?

When a patient suspected of having a stroke arrives, the patient’s vital information is forwarded to a neurologist. The neurologist reviews the case while a nurse conducts a stroke scale test. 

The test results are shared with the neurologist, who performs a remote assessment of the patient with the help of the nurse. The neurologist can actually see the patient and ask questions using the computer screen.

Dr. Amit Arora, a Huntsville Hospital neurologist and director of the stroke network, trained emergency nurses and physicians at Marshall Medical to use the technology. He praised the high-tech camera on the telestroke cart, which is rolled to the foot of the patient’s bed for the assessment. 

“We can actually zoom in on the patient and examine their pupil with this powerful camera,” he said.