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Time is Brain: How Telestroke is Making an Impact

TelehealthtelestrokestrokeFAST • 3 min read • Jul 8, 2015 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Brad Ranks

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke each year. In 2011, stroke accounted for about 1 in 20 deaths in the United States, a 35.1% increase in death rate due to stroke since 2001. As the third leading cause of death, stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is on the minds of many who are streamlining new systems of care and treatment.

Thrombolytics – most commonly, intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), are the leading level 1A treatment for acute ischemic strokes, which account for 87% of all strokes. When administered within the first 3 hours of symptom onset, tPA can dissolve the blood clot causing the stroke and restore blood flow. Despite being readily available and effective, tPA is only administered to approximately 5% of stroke patients across the United States. Administration is even more infrequent in small and rural hospitals, which tend to lack on-site neurologists to authorize administration of thrombolytics.

That’s where telemedicine for strokes, or telestroke, comes in! Telestroke services are working to close the gap in stroke treatment by linking stroke experts with underserved hospitals via a hub-and-spoke network model. This system has proven effective in enhancing management of stroke patients by increasing thrombolysis rates and ensuring rapid evaluation by neurologists or stroke expertise. After all, the phrase “time is brain” has emphasized how rapidly human nervous tissue is lost as stroke progresses without proper evaluation and treatment.

However, despite medical advances such as telestroke treatment, the main reason for stroke patients not receiving treatment has been attributed to failure of patients to seek care. So, make sure to take the time to recognize the major stroke symptoms and act FAST: Look for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, slurred or strange Speech, and know that it’s Time to call 911 if these symptoms occur. Other possible stroke symptoms include sudden vision changes, confusion, balance problems, a severe, unfamiliar headache, and numbness, tingling, or loss of movement in one arm, one leg, or one side of the face. Always take note of the exact onset of symptoms so that medical providers can determine whether thrombolytics will be the best course of action. Because as we’ve seen, “time is brain!”

Use FAST to Remember The Warning Signs of A Stroke


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Brad Ranks