Telestroke Saves Lives
One morning in July, 2011, Brandy Engelsdorfer, a 35-year-old in Shannonville, Ontario, headed to the second floor of her home to wake up her three children. At the top of the stairs, she suddenly banged into the wall, “and the world turned sideways.”
She didn’t know it then, but she was having a major stroke. A 1.4 cm blood clot was blocking blood flow in the main artery that carries blood to the brain. Before losing consciousness, Brandy called her husband and asked her seven-year-old daughter to call 911.
At Belleville General Hospital, through OTN’s Telestroke, doctors immediately connected with Dr. David Gladstone, a stroke neurologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Telestroke allows consulting stroke specialists to collaborate with doctors at 23 referring hospitals in Ontario. Dr. Gladstone was able to examine Brandy by video and view her brain scan images as well as discuss diagnosis and treatment with her husband. Belleville General had become a Telestroke referring site just six months earlier.
Dr. Gladstone determined that Brandy was a candidate for treatment with the clot-dissolving drug, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). TPA is the most effective emergency treatment for stroke, but had not been widely available outside of specialized stroke centres until the Telestroke program was created. The challenge is that tPA needs to be administered as quickly as possible after the onset of a stroke to have maximum benefit, and it can also cause serious bleeding complications. Telestroke helps to ensure that local doctors use tPA for the right patients and as safely as possible.
In Brandy’s case, the tPA worked to dissolve her clot and save her life. She recovered fully and, in her own words, is, “better than ever.”
“The Telestroke program has completely revolutionized stroke care delivery in this province,” Dr. Gladstone says. “It transports us to the patient’s bedside and allows us to provide emergency clot-busting drug therapy to so many patients with stroke who otherwise would not be able to receive this treatment. Ontarians are truly fortunate to have this innovative, world-class program.”