New program helps treat strokes

Thursday 10 September 2015

CGHS is raising awareness of National Stroke Week from September 14-20.

Victorian Stroke Telemedicine Coordinator with the CGHS Critical Care Unit, Anne Van Berkel, said CGHS had a strong history of being very proactive in clinical research.

“Fortunately CGHS has been given a tremendous opportunity to be involved in the Victorian Stroke Telemedicine(VST) Program,” she said.

“This is a national and state funded program which is a virtual system, linking rural and regional Victorian hospitals to a network of Melbourne-based neurologists.

“They provide treatment advice on patients who present to the emergency department within 4.5 hours of their stroke symptoms. Real time audio-visual communication and viewing of brain imaging is used to rapidly assess patients with acute stroke.”

This service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Lead Stroke Physician at CGHS, Dr Krishna Mandaleson, said this important program brought equity of stroke care to rural and regional hospitals in which time was a critical factor in treatment.

Dr Mandaleson said also raising awareness of the simple F.A.S.T. test would help people to recognise symptoms of stroke.

The test is: Face – check the person’s face, has their mouth dropped; Arms – Can they lift both arms; Speech - is speech slurred, do they understand you; Time – is critical.

“If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away,” Dr Mandelson said.

In Australia, about 50,000 people suffer a stroke each year with around 250,000 people living with the consequences of stroke.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term adult disability and the second leading cause of death.

CGHS Chief Medical Officer, Dr Howard Connor who is also Emergency Department Director, said there had been significant advances in treatment for patients with acute stroke that had improved survival and reduced disability.

“Rapid diagnosis provides the best opportunity for clinicians to intervene early,” he said. “Of the proven therapies for stroke, intravenous thrombolysis (clot dissolving drug) and organised care in a Stroke Unit have the potential to deliver the most benefit.”

According to Dr Connor, despite extensive evidence that thrombolysis is safe, improves health outcomes and is cost-effective, few patients still have access to this treatment. There is variation in care between metropolitan and regional areas.

“The delivery of optimal stroke care in regional Australia is problematic for several reasons including limited resources and fewer nursing, allied health and medical physicians with a specialist interest in stroke.

“The VST is helping us to improve stroke treatment for regional and rural people.”


Caption: Pictured (from left) with the Telemedicine equipment in the Emergency Department at Sale Hospital are Anne Van Berkel (Clinical Trials Coordinator and Victorian Stroke Telemedicine Coordinator), Dr Howard Connor (Chief Medical Officer and Director of Critical Care & Emergency Services) and Sue Dobson (Associate Nurse Unit Manager Emergency Department).