Web-Based Stroke Care Aids Rural Patients

Doctors consult with experts at larger centers via the Internet

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THURSDAY, Sept. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A portable Web-based stroke evaluation system is allowing doctors to treat stroke patients in rural areas just as quickly as patients in larger hospitals staffed with professional stroke teams, a new study finds.

"There were some concerns that telemedicine would be too slow; there would be too many delays. This shows you can treat quickly," study lead author Dr. David Hess, chair of the neurology department at the Medical College of Georgia, said in a prepared statement. "If this works in a very difficult environment with small hospitals, it's a model of what can be done in Georgia or any state."

Published in the September issue of Stroke, the study of the Remote Evaluation for Acute Ischemic Stroke (REACH) system included 194 stroke patients treated in eight rural Georgia hospitals. The patients were viewed via the REACH system by stroke team members at a much larger academic medical center.

Most of the patients received the clot-buster drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) in less than two hours. The drug must be given within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. There was little difference in the outcomes of rural patients treated via REACH and those treated in person at a larger urban hospital.

Sixty percent of the REACH patients treated with tPA received the drug in less than two hours and 23 percent were treated within 90 minutes or less, the researchers said.

"While we have a three-hour window, the evidence suggests that if you treat patients with tPA in under two hours or, even better, under 90 minutes, you improve your outcome. We actually look upon it as though we have a two-hour stroke window now," Hess said.

He said the study findings indicate that "the REACH system doesn't just treat patients who never got treated before, but it treats them fast."

REACH was developed at the Medical College of Georgia.

More information

The Society of Interventional Radiology has more about stroke prevention and treatments.

SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, Sept. 13, 2005

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