ARH part of telestroke pilot

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amy Herrington, Andalusia Regional Hospital’s emergency room director, and ER nurse Jeremy Cottle begin setting up the new tele-neurologist machine Wednesday, which allows ER staff to quickly diagnosis and treat stroke patients through teleconferencing.


Andalusia Regional Hospital is sharing in a $55,000 state Public Health Department grant to help purchase a “life saving tool,” hospital officials said Wednesday.

The funds were also given to hospitals in Montgomery and Prattville to improve stroke care expertise, said Amy Herrington, ARH’s emergency room director.

“This is a pilot project where specialists use videoconferencing to remotely examine a patient presenting an acute neurological emergency, which could be a stroke or seizures, make a diagnosis, interpret the brain images and provide recommendations to the hospital’s physicians,” Herrington said.

Herrington described the way the system works as a “hub and spoke model.”

“Which means a local ER doctor here can teleconference with a neurologist at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery,” she said. “It puts the doctor right at the patient’s bedside, whereas before, you would’ve had to have gone 70-plus miles to get a consult.”

Herrington said when treating an acute stroke patient, “time is foremost.”

“One of the most important treatments ER doctors use to treat strokes is called tPA –a blood thinner that dissolves artery-clogging blood clots which causes most strokes.

“You only have a three hour window to administer tPA after you start noticing symptoms,” she said. “That’s why it is so important to get to a hospital if you think you’ve experienced a stroke or stroke-like symptoms.”

State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson said the project “has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of care given to stroke patients by saving precious time and delivering expert neurological care to patients experiencing stroke symptoms.”

Herrington absolutely agreed with that statement, she said, as the equipment has already been put into use at ARH.

“We had a patient about a month ago who, when he arrived, we could see had an ischemic stroke, which is a blood clot,” she said. “We were able to get a tele-neurologist consult and administer the medicine. More than likely, had he not gotten that medicine, he would have gone into a non-responsive state. This piece of equipment and the medicine saved his life.

“Within 30 minutes of administering the medicine, he was able to communicate and move normally,” she said.

Herrington said people should remember the word “fast” to recognize the signs of a stroke:

• F for facial weakness. Can the person smile? Has his or her mouth or eyes drooped?

• A for arm weakness. Can the person raise both arms? Is one slightly lower?

• S for speech/sight difficulty. Can the person speak or see clearly and understand what you say?

• T for time to act.

“This one is very important, because a stroke is an emergency,” Herrington said. “Time loss is brain lost. Call 911.”