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“Telestroke” technology will expand access to emergency stroke care across Minnesota

Emergency room video conferencing will give our experts rapid, remote access to stroke patients—decreasing response times and improving outcomes for people experiencing a stroke.

Speed is critical for the successful treatment of a stroke—every minute a person goes without care can affect their recovery and increase the risk of long-term health effects.

In 2015, University of Minnesota Health introduced “Telestroke” technology at University of Minnesota Medical Center, allowing our neurologists immediate access to incoming stroke patients through emergency room video conferencing. In January 2018, a new partnership will bring this technology—and University of Minnesota Health stroke care expertise—to Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Telestroke technology consists of a sophisticated two-way audio and visual system. Doctors have the ability to manipulate the camera position remotely—which helps when examining patients and diagnosing stroke symptoms—and can review the results of brain-imaging tests conducted in the local emergency department.

The system will allow the stroke or neurocritical care specialist to immediately assess stroke patients arriving at Fairview Southdale Hospital and make rapid treatment decisions, even if the patient arrives in the middle of the night or the specialist is currently at another hospital or location. The system also allows stroke experts to direct emergency treatments, including surgeries to dissolve the blood clots causing the stroke and prevent devastating brain injury.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted—either because of an obstruction in the brain’s blood vessels that reduces blood flow, or because bleeding into the brain itself due to a ruptured blood vessel. Without proper blood flow, permanent brain damage occurs quickly. The longer it takes for emergency treatment to begin, the greater a person’s risk of disability or death.

“Large studies have shown that accelerating stroke treatment by as little as five minutes leads to significant improvement in recovery and survival for stroke patients,” University of Minnesota Health Neurologist Christopher Streib, MD said. “Telestroke technology ensures that these decisions can be made as quickly as possible.”

What is a stroke? Learn more about the condition and the treatment services available at our designated Comprehensive Stroke Center.

In 2018, University of Minnesota Health and Fairview Health Services plan to expand the partnership to  other Fairview hospitals, increasing rapid access to expert stroke care for people across Minnesota. Additional locations will include: Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital, Fairview Range Medical Center, Fairview Northland Medical Center and Fairview Lakes Medical Center.

“We are extremely excited to bring Telestroke to the Fairview system. The program will allow us to standardize care for stroke and neurocritical care patients in our partner hospitals throughout Minnesota,” Streib said. “Patients will receive the specialty stroke consultation that they need locally in their own community.”

In addition to Dr. Streib, the University of Minnesota Health Stroke Neurology team includes Mohammed Alkuwaiti, MD; Ben Miller, MD; Oladi Bentho, MD; Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, MD; Mustapha Ezzeddine, MD, and Rwoof Ahmed Reshi, MD.

The neurology team will be working closely with University of Minnesota Health Neurosurgeon Andrew Grande, MD, FRCS, FAANS; Neurosurgeon Ramachandra Tummala, MD, FRCS, FAANS; and Neuroradiologist Bharathi Jagadeesan, MD. These experts specialize in procedures that eliminate the blood clot causing a stroke, with the goal of preventing a devastating brain injury.

“We have seen extraordinary recoveries for stroke patients when the appropriate surgeries are performed in a timely manner,” Tummala said. “We look forward to working with the Telestroke team to expand this invaluable service to more Minnesotans.”

“This program, and more to come like it, demonstrates Fairview’s commitment to taking care delivery to the patient whenever feasible,” said Mark Welton, MD, MHCM, and Fairview’s chief medical officer.