TeleStroke Program quickly connects stroke patients with special - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

TeleStroke Program quickly connects stroke patients with specialists

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Jon Gray, explains the InTouch TeleStroke system. (Source: KPLC) Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Jon Gray, explains the InTouch TeleStroke system. (Source: KPLC)

When a patient has a stroke, getting fast treatment drastically improves the outcome.  Telemedicine is changing the way stroke patients are treated in local emergency rooms.

At Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, several stroke patients come into the emergency department every day, according to Medical Director, Dr. Jon Gray.

"We see several stroke patients throughout the day," said Dr. Gray.  "I'd say as many as five to ten."

Dr. Gray says the magnitude of patients can be overwhelming in a community without enough highly specialized stroke experts.  While LCMH does have highly trained neurologists and neurosurgeons on staff, there are not enough to keep up with 24 hour patient demand in an emergency setting.

That is where the InTouch Health TeleStroke system comes into play, a partnership with Tulane Medical Center's Stroke Program.

"The patient will be seeing his face and he will be seeing the patient and family," said Dr. Gray.  "We have a camera and microphone and speaker, so it's a two way conversation, just like Skype."

The TeleStroke system provides on-demand access 24 hours a day to stroke experts within minutes of entering the emergency room.  The primary use is in determining the best course of treatment for the patient, which can involve a very strong blood thinner called tPa, tissue plasminogen activator.

"TPA is a super powerful blood thinner," said Dr. Gray.  "It's probably the most potent blood thinner that we have.  What it does is it actually dissolves the clot that is lodged in the blood vessel in the brain."

Dr. Gray says this drug can prevent stroke symptoms from being permanent in many cases if a patient is given the drug quickly.

"If you're here within three hours of on-set, that gives us an hour to do the work-up and make sure that you're a perfect candidate for this medication," he said.  "We also have very, very strict inclusion criteria as well as exclusion criteria."

The family can also consult with the stroke expert about the best options before making a decision that does carry a risk of potentially life-threatening complications.  Dr. Gray says the added expertise can significantly improve patient outcomes.

"This is one of the critical decisions that we make and having a specialist to help us make those decisions, with the potential bad outcomes, even though it's a minimal percentage, it's nice to have a highly specialized trained individual to help us make those decisions," he said.

The TeleStroke program also allows stroke patients to stay close to home while receiving specialized care, rather than have to travel to an out-of-town specialty center.

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