This 128-slice CT scanner is a time saver and a brain-saver. The stroke center within Gulf Coast Medical Center uses it to quickly diagnose stroke activity.
“It’s all about speed and accuracy. And this will allow our radiologists to make the most accurate diagnoses in the fastest possible time, and time is of the essence with stroke,” says Dr. William Hearn, radiologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The scan takes just seconds- it’s interpreted within minutes. And in the hands of the medical team who will decide whether clot-busting drugs would be of use.
“We learned now over the years the golden hour, i.e. the timeline 60 minutes after the patient walks through the door, is the best timeline that we can give the patients the clot busting medicines,” says Dr. Nima Mowzoon, neurologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
These clot busters, or TPAs can actually bring a stroke to a dead stop. The medication doesn’t alter brain damage, but keeps it from spreading. Patients who get the drug have less long-term disability, 12% recover completely. New data shows the use of clot-busters has almost doubled.
The study looked at the years between 2003 and 2011. Clot-busters should be given within 3 hours of the stroke; the window is expanded to 4 1/2 under some circumstances. Doctors feel the need for speed, understanding the earlier in the window, the better.
“We have a pharmacy that’s waiting in the ER. The pharmacist is waiting to mix that medicine and administrate that medicine very quickly if we need it,” says Dr. Mowzoon.
There are several disqualifying factors. Patients can’t be on blood-thinners or have a condition that makes them likely to hemorrhage. Maybe the most critical factor: recognizing the stroke symptoms fast enough to race the clock.