Southwest Wisconsin residents with stroke symptoms can go to the emergency department at Southwest Health Center in Platteville and have immediate, around-the-clock access to trained stroke neurologists.
A high-speed, high-tech connection, Telestroke, allows patients and SHC Emergency Medicine Physicians to consult directly with neurology specialists from the UW Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center for fast and potentially life-saving treatment.
The collaboration between the two hospitals saves precious time for patients. A clot-breaking drug called rtPA (alteplase) needs to be given within three to four hours after the onset of an ischemic stroke, which is caused when a blood clot blocks blood vessels in the brain. Waiting too long to administer the drug can cause bleeding in the brain or death.
“When treating stroke, we always say that minutes equal brain cells,” said UW Health stroke neurologist Dr. Justin Sattin. “This new link allows patients to be treated as quickly as possible at Southwest Health Center with a timely consultation from a trained stroke neurologist. Telestroke allows patients at Southwest Health Center to get the same stroke assessment and treatment recommendations they could get at our comprehensive stroke center.”
The Southwest Health Center Emergency Department is available around the clock, 365 days a year, and is staffed by its own team of board-certified emergency physicians. The new Telestroke link with UW Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, made possible by a donation from the Richard Brodbeck Memorial Fund, gives the SHC Emergency Medicine Team an immediate and important new resource that will improve stroke care and help save lives.
“We are excited that this partnership with UW Health will bring better, faster stroke care to our patients,” said Robb Pastor, SHC’s chief nurse executive. “Through this project, the two hospitals are forging a strong working relationship which will result in additional benefits for southwest Wisconsin residents.”
Every year more than 700,000 people nationwide will suffer a stroke, which occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or bursts and bleeds. Women are now more likely than men to suffer strokes, and 40 percent of all strokes strike people younger than 60. Fast diagnosis and treatment is key to reducing damage from a stroke.
A study of a similar stroke telemedicine network in California, published in the journal Lancet–Neurology, found that telemedicine resulted in better decision-making than telephone consultations.
“There simply is no substitute for being able to see and talk with a patient and evaluate the stroke symptoms with your own eyes,’’ says Sattin.
The Wisconsin Telestroke Network launched in 2009 and now includes Southwest Health Center and other hospitals in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, all linked via specialized equipment to the UW Comprehensive Stroke Center. Telestroke is a collaborative approach to better, faster care that expands access to specialists without duplicating services.
In many cases, Telestroke treatment will allow patients to stay at SHC in Platteville. In complicated cases that require more specialized resources and a transfer to Madison, the neurologists at UW Hospital will have already met and evaluated patients. At UW Hospital, patients who need further treatment will have access to neurosurgeons and other physicians who specialize in less invasive surgery in which catheters are threaded into the brain to remove blood clots without surgery.
The UW Hospital’s stroke program recently received the Gold Performance award for achieving the American Stroke Association’s top guidelines, and has been given a top award from the Joint Commission as well.
In addition to immediate access to the stroke team—on call 24 hours a day—the SHC/UW Health collaboration offers:
• Five stroke neurologists, part of a multidisciplinary team that offers the area’s greatest level of experience in endovascular and neurosurgical procedures.
• The only Wisconsin hospital to offer a newly FDA-approved Pipeline device, used in treating giant aneurysms.
• A neurological intensive care unit with specialized nursing staff and neuro intensive care physicians.
• State-of-the art scanning.
• Advanced endovascular treatments to reduce stroke damage and/or prevent future strokes.
Symptoms of stroke
When it comes to treating strokes, time is of the essence. Watch for these signs, and if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke, don’t delay:
• Trouble walking. Stumbling sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
• Trouble communicating. Confusion, slurring words, or difficulty understanding speech.
• Paralysis or numbness. Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body. Try raising both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke.
Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
• Trouble seeing. Sudden blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or seeing double.
• Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
Don’t delay. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to fluctuate or disappear. Call 911 immediately. Don’t wait to see if symptoms go away. Every minute counts.