In recognition of Stroke Awareness Month, and in partnership with Baton Rouge EMS and Acadian Ambulance, Our Lady of the Lake has announced a new protocol for treating stroke patients that allows for faster treatment and a better chance at recovery.
Our Lady of the Lake has expanded its “Stroke Alert” program to include coordination with ambulance teams that enables paramedics to provide hospital staff with advanced notice of an incoming stroke patient. Ambulance teams may also bypass the emergency room to take a potential stroke patient directly to the Stroke Center where a special team has been activated and is waiting with all necessary resources. The “Stroke Alert” system further engages paramedics to provide treatment for specific symptoms during transport to the hospital.
“Minutes matter for patients having a stroke,” says Joseph Acosta, M.D., medical director of Our Lady of the Lake Stroke Center and neurologist with the NeuroMedical Center. “Last year, only 30 percent of ischemic stroke sufferers arrived at the hospital within the best window of opportunity for treatment. We recommend people get here within three-and-a-half hours of experiencing symptoms, and sooner is always better.”
Strokes occur when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When this occurs, part of the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, destroying millions of valuable nerve cells every minute.
“By delivering potential stroke patients directly to a CT scan for immediate analysis, we are able to determine the type of stoke of faster, and therefore treat the patient faster,” said Acosta.
Since the “Stroke Alert” partnership was implemented in February, Our Lady of the Lake has seen a significant drop in treatment times. In 2013, it took an average of 30 minutes for a stroke patient to complete a CT scan and 80 minutes to receive a special “clot-busting” medication. Those times have been reduced to an average of 14 minutes and 61 minutes, respectively.
“Our Emergency Department physicians are also working with paramedics to manage the blood pressure of stroke victims before they arrive at the hospital,” said James Rhorer, M.D., director of emergency services for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. “Having the blood pressure managed during transport to the hospital means more valuable time saved for the doctors to treat the patient.”
Symptoms of a stroke can be subtle and may include the sudden onset of weakness in the arms or legs, blurry vision, dizziness, difficulty balancing and trouble speaking.
“It is important to ‘Survive, and don’t drive,’” said Rhorer. “If someone thinks they may be experiencing a stroke, call an ambulance and do not attempt to drive. We can get them to a hospital faster, can activate a stroke team faster, and can offer treatment faster.”
Drs. Acosta and Rhorer also recommend using the F.A.S.T. test to remember the signs of a stroke:
Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Risk factors associated with stroke can often be managed and include tobacco use, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse, and physical activity.