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Call 9-1-1 for fastest stroke treatment

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January 13, 2017

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391C


Call 9-1-1 for fastest stroke treatment

Lewistown telestroke center since 2008


When someone is showing signs of stroke, what’s the right thing to do? Pick up the phone. In a stroke awareness campaign this month, Central Montana Medical Center (CMMC) and the Montana Cardiovascular Health Program are reminding residents of central Montana that the fastest route to stroke treatment is the ambulance.

“Making the right call is critical in the path to stroke recovery,” said Amy LePage, MD, emergency department medical director at CMMC. “The ambulance service alerts medical and radiology staff. Care starts sooner when patients arrive by ambulance.”

Stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted. During a stroke, about two million brain cells die every minute.

“Urgent treatment is needed,” said Dr. LePage.

For the most common type of stroke, clot-busting medication can be given to interrupt the stroke limiting the damage that stroke can cause. However the clot-busting medication must be given within three and a half hours from the start of symptoms. Long-term disability can be prevented if blood flow is restored quickly.

“The time it takes to get a patient to a larger medical center can rule out treatment options. The best chance of recovery comes with very early treatment,” LePage explained.

Since 2008, CMMC has been part of the Montana Telestroke Program. It was the first rural hospital in the state to be connected to stroke neurologists by internet-based two-way audio and video communication. Telestroke uses technology to combat the critical time factor.

Through the telestroke system, a stroke neurologist in Great Falls, Denver, Portland or Seattle—can examine a patient in Lewistown. The neurologist is able to view brain images and lab results. CMMC staff members help with the patient’s physical assessment. Ultimately, a timely diagnosis and treatment plan is provided. 

“Our telestroke capabilities allow rural residents to receive the stroke care they need, when they need it,” Dr. LePage said. “We can connect a patient with a doctor who has seen many, many strokes.” Six rural hospitals are now part of the Montana Telestroke Program. In July of 2016, the program announced a treatment milestone of 100 patientshttp://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/life/2016/07/25/montana-telestroke-project-reaches-milestone/87406352/

“Minutes matter in the treatment of stroke,” she emphasized. “Know the signs and be ready to act if you or someone you know is having a stroke.”

For more information about stroke, visit strokeassociation.org. Talk to your doctor to learn your risk of stroke.

Sudden Signs of Stroke

·         Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

·         Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding others

·         Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·         Dizziness, loss of balance or trouble walking

·         Severe headache with no known cause