September26, 2012 Edition

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LMH joins network
for stroke patient care

John Bland

Doctors have found that stroke patients have the best chance of recovery if they get proper treatment within three hours.

"It makes more sense to treat it (stroke) right here," said Rick Washam of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and AR SAVES.

Victims of stroke who come to Lawrence Memorial Hospital will soon be able to get that immediate treatment, thanks to the AR SAVES program, scheduled to be available at the hospital beginning Monday.

With new equipment installed at the hospital, the trained staff will be able to connect stroke patients with one of the state's five board certified vascular neurologists. The neurologist will be able to see and talk to the patient with the two-way video telemedicine equipment.

Telemedicine is the use of technology to reduce distance and time, Washam said.

"The physician is virtually in the room with you," he said, adding that the local hospital becomes an extension of the UAMS stroke center.

One of the five neurologists on call 24-hours-a-day can not only see the patient but can also look at a C.T. scan of the patient's brain in real time.

"Seeing patients through telemedicine is the difference in night and day," said Delbert McCutchen, RN/EMT and AR SAVES outreach nurse. McCutchen has been helping conduct the two weeks of training at LMH.

If the neurologist determines that the patient is a candidate, then he or she can be given a clot-busting drug called t-PA, an FDA-approved acute stroke therapy. Given early enough, the drug is so successful that some patients, suffering full-blown strokes, are back to normal within a day or two.

Lawrence Memorial is the 38th hospital in the state to be connected to the AR SAVES program, which stands for Stoke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support. The program is now in its fifth year and is the largest tele-stroke network in the nation, Washam said.

The telemedicine equipment, which costs $35,000, is given free to the hospital through UAMS and an eLink grant, he added.

Julie Foster, RN and Emergency Department director, said that training for the AR SAVES is finishing up this week at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. "I think it will be wonderful for the community," she added.

Stroke is the interruption of blood flow in the brain. A clot or blockage causes 87 percent of strokes, while 13 percent are the result of bleeding or a hemorrhage in the brain.

Washam shared several statistics about stroke that show the importance of AR SAVES.

Arkansas, located in the "stroke belt" - the South, ranks second in the nation for stroke deaths. The Delta of Arkansas is the worst part of the state for the occurrence of strokes.

While 80 percent of stroke patients survive, 50 percent of them are disabled. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death, and the leading cause of disability in adults, Washam said.

He also stressed that stroke victims and their loved ones must act quickly when the signs of stroke occur, which can be quite sudden.

Act FAST is the acronym for recognizing the signs of a stroke.

  • F is for facial drooping or an uneven smile.

  • A is for arm numbness or weakness in one arm or the other.

  • S is for speech that is slurred.

  • T is for time and the importance of callling 911 to get to the hospital immediately.

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