HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, Ill., has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award.
The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year causing 140,000 deaths. St. Elizabeth’s treats more than 200 of them each year.
“Unfortunately, we are not treating our bodies as we should,” said Amanda Ernst, stroke coordinator at St. Elizabeth’s. “Obesity and high blood pressure are rampant even among younger people so we’re starting to see more strokes in earlier ages. We’ve had several strokes this year in patients who are less than 50 years old.”
St. Elizabeth’s is a designated Illinois Emergent Stroke Ready Hospital authorized to administer tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which is the only FDA-approved drug treatment for ischemic strokes. However, time is precious when treating a stroke. tPA must be administered less than four and a half hours after the onset and sooner is better.
“Our goal is to provide that medication within 60 minutes of arrival,” Ernst said.
This is where telemedicine improves stroke care. St. Elizabeth’s contracts with a national group of medical specialists who can beam in via robot, evaluate the patient and perform a stroke assessment. “Through the robot, they can see the patient; talk to the family; communicate with our physicians; and determine the best course of care,” said Erin Kochan, project manager of telehealth at St. Elizabeth’s.
Sometimes, patients don’t readily recognize stroke symptoms or for other reasons exceed the time limitations for the tPA therapy. Then, surgery may be an option.
“If we catch them within 24 hours, we may actually be able to go in and remove the clot from the artery in their brain and restore blood flow,” said Ernst. “That’s been a game changer in the world of stroke care,” she added. “We haven’t had an advancement like that in a long time.”
As with many things, the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” rings true. St. Elizabeth’s conducts outreach programs throughout the year to educate the public on the threat of stroke, its risk factors and identification signs. And they work with patients who have suffered a transient ischemic attack or “mini-stroke” to alter their lifestyles and mitigate chances for a recurrence.
– By ALAN J. ORTBALS
PHOTOS: Amanda Ernst, top, and Erin Kochan.