Source: The News-Enterprise
Every year, about 795,000 Americans have a new or recurrent stroke. Every 40 seconds in the United States, someone experiences a stroke and every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
Those are just a few of the dire statistics Hardin Memorial Hospital Stroke Program Coordinator Rosa Vittitoe can list about strokes. She said the hospital sees 30 to 40 patients each month who experience a stroke.
Despite those numbers, Vittitoe said stroke care dramatically has improved across the country — going from the third leading cause of death to the fifth — and at the hospital, which in 2010 was designated a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission.
A stroke, previously know medically as a cerebrovascular accident, is the rapidly developing loss of brain function because of the disturbance in the blood supply to the brain.
Vittitoe said several advancements have been made to improve care at the hospital for strokes.
This year, full-time positions were created for a stoke program coordinator and a data analyst.
“Evidence supports that organizations that invest in these positions truly have better outcomes for their patients,” Vittitoe said.
As part of the recent completion of the expansion of the emergency department, a CT scanner was added to the area.
Prior to the expansion, when a patient came in with stroke symptoms, staff had to transport the patient a quarter mile through the hospital for a scan.
Now, the ambulance entrance doors to the hospital can be seen from the doorway to the CT scan room in the emergency department.
They’ve also recently installed perfusion scanning capability.
“The perfusion scanning capability allows the physician to make more accurate and timely diagnoses of treatment for our patients so they get what they need in a quicker timeframe,” said Vittitoe, noting seconds matter when it involves a stroke.
At the hospital, within four minutes of entering the doors by ambulance with a stroke alert, a patient receives first contact with a physician, officials say. Within 10 minutes, the initiation of a CT scan is started. The door to CT interpretation is 33 minutes.
All of these times are under the national goals, which are 10 minutes, 25 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively, Vittitoe said.
“We’re already way ahead of that game,” she said. “The first time I came to a stroke alert down in the (emergency department) here, I just stood there in awe.”
Vittitoe encouraged more residents to call 911 when experiencing a stroke. She said EMS gives pre-hospital notification, which allows the team to be lined up and waiting for arrival of a patient. She said more than 50 percent of patients arrive in a private vehicle, which could increase the time.
She also said a patient education handbook recently was printed.
“This handbook allows us to individualize the patient’s risk factors,” Vittitoe said. “It has images of the brain so we can show the patient and/or family where that attack hit and some of the challenges that they may meet and to look at their risk factors and help them develop those short- and long-term goals.”
Vittitoe said they are diagnosing so fast and treating quicker that the residual they are seeing now is different than even a year ago.
“We’re making such advances with rehab,” she said, adding stroke is the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States.
Bert Jones, HMH enterprise director of medical imaging, added what they do inside the walls of the hospital is important, but what happens after the patient leaves also is critical. That’s why education is important.
“If they don’t do what they are supposed to do outside these four walls, we may see them back,” Vittitoe said.
She said it’s also important to be educated on the signs and symptoms of stroke. Vittitoe said the majority of those who come in with stroke symptoms at the hospital are between ages 30 and 50.
“It can be a person that the only risk factor is increased stress,” she said. “It really is a sudden onset disease for any age group. It can happen and the only thing we have is prevention and education.”
Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.