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Parris Island EMS staff in room providing information and history of patient to ER nurses while nurse at cart inputting information for physician at MUSC.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Parris Island Fire Department put new stroke program to the test

In preparation for the stressful holiday season, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and the Parris Island Fire Department ran a drill earlier this week to test a new telemedicine stroke system designed to provide rapid diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from the debilitating condition.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital Emergency Department physicians Drs. Luke Baxley and Steven Larson ready with the Telemedicine Cart used to consult with MUSC.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital Emergency Department physicians Drs. Luke Baxley and Steven Larson ready with the Telemedicine Cart used to consult with MUSC.

The Web-based program — called REACH for Remote Evaluation of Acute Ischemic Stroke — allows ER physicians in Beaufort to consult with neurologists at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston on a moment’s notice to determine if a patient is having a stroke.

Giving patients clot-busting drugs within one hour of their arrival in the ER is crucial to minimizing brain damage and speeding recovery.

“We have three great neurologists in Beaufort, but it’s difficult for them to be available in our Emergency Department 24/7,” BMH stroke coordinator Sheri O’Brien said. “With the telemedicine program, we can reach a stroke care expert in minutes.”

Last Monday morning, a young, healthy firefighter from the Parris Island Fire Department played the role of a 65-year-old man who was having trouble speaking and showing weakness in his right arm and leg.

Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke, Parris Island Fire Department rescue workers provided emergency treatment and notified BMH that they were bringing in a possible stroke patient. By the time they arrived at the hospital, the ER team had hooked up the telemedicine cart and alerted the various hospital departments involved in treating

Parris Island Fire Department arrives at BMH with stroke patient.
Parris Island Fire Department arrives at BMH with stroke patient.

stroke patients to be at the ready.

The patient was quickly taken to the imaging department for a CT scan, a test that can show bleeding in the brain or damage to brain cells from a stroke.

“It takes an average of 10 minutes to get an MUSC neurologist online,” O’Brien said. “In the time it took to complete the CT, the doctor was paged and at the cart waiting.”

After virtually examining the patient and the imaging results, the neurologist determined he was having an ischemic stroke, caused when an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked. The patient was immediately treated with clot-busting medication.

If the artery had leaked or ruptured, causing a hemorrhagic stroke, the patient would have been airlifted to MUSC for more advanced treatment.

Beaufort Memorial’s ER typically handles 250 stroke cases each year. Since BMH joined the REACH program Sept. 9, emergency physicians have used the telemedicine cart 19 times.

“Time is so important with a stroke,” O’Brien said. “The faster you can get diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.”

Parris Island EMS staff in room providing information and history of patient to ER nurses while nurse at cart inputting information for physician at MUSC.
Parris Island EMS staff in room providing information and history of patient to ER nurses while nurse at cart inputting information for physician at MUSC.

 

Stroke symptoms include a drooping face, weakness in an arm or leg, difficulty speaking or understanding, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, loss of balance and a sudden severe headache.

“Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of the symptoms,” O’Brien said. “And note the time of the first symptom. It’s important information that can affect treatment decisions.”

Preparing patient for CT scan.
Preparing patient for CT scan.

 

 

 

 

Nurse awaiting physician from MUSC to sign on to Telemedicine cart (physician will appear on screen in front of patient).
Nurse awaiting physician from MUSC to sign on to Telemedicine cart (physician will appear on screen in front of patient).
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