AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

EMS Role is Critical to Stroke Treatment and Recovery

Each year, almost 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, on average one American suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and one victim dies every 3 to 4 minutes making stroke the third leading cause of death in this country, after heart disease and cancer.

Innovations in the treatment of stroke have provided many new options for physicians and emergency room personnel over the past half-decade, but getting the stroke victim to the most effective treatment center still remains a critical element in a victims long term survival. EMS is a part of the success of any telemedicine program. Being able to quickly assess a patient to identify acute stroke symptoms is one thing – getting the patient to the closest most equipped hospital is another. Hospital associations and telestroke providers need to include EMS in the conversation as it will dramatically impact the lives in acute stroke events.  EMS teams must have a goal of getting potential stroke victims stabilized, evaluated, and to a primary stroke center in less than an hour.

To plan for an effective response, directors of EMS units should have a preplanned stroke protocol written for their teams, divide the EMS unit’s region into districts according to the nearest emergency department capable of treating acute strokes and maintain regular training sessions for EMS personnel.

The Utah Department of Health and The Bureau of Emergency Medical Services are leading the way in establishing effective procedures and communications to EMS personnel when it comes to transporting patients for the treatment of stroke. The Bureau has identified eight regional hospitals throughout the state as “Primary Stroke Centers”, hospitals that have undergone certification by the Joint Commission or DNV as specialized centers providing the highest level of comprehensive stoke care. This includes advanced time-critical emergency stroke care, including specialized radiology, neurology, and neurosurgery expertise, as well as complete inpatient treatment and outpatient rehabilitative programs for stroke patients.  In addition, 17 localized hospitals have been designated as “Stroke Receiving Facilities”, centers that have procedures, equipment, and protocols in place to provide time-critical emergency stroke care, in consultation with one of the Primary Stroke Centers.

For stroke victims, there is less than 4.5-hours after the onset of symptoms in which thrombolytic therapy offers an enhanced opportunity for a patient’s recovery.  Educating and training EMS and First Responders to identify, properly evaluate and transport victims to a Primary Stroke Center, or a Stroke Receiving Facility, is critical to the successful outcome of treatment for stroke victims.

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