Telestroke, For When Moments Count

Sonia Survilla is enjoying the summer with her daughter, Ashley.

Last April, Sonia Survilla was on her deck early one morning when she began to experience stroke symptoms. “The last thing I remembered was the deck spinning and my body going numb,” she recalled.

Alone on the deck, Ms. Survilla hoped her daughter, Ashley, would find her. Thankfully, she did. “She was not responding and there was foam around her mouth,” Ashley said. “I called 911 right away.”

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain gets blocked by a clot or bursts. A stroke requires immediate attention. So when Ms. Survilla arrived at a local hospital in Bethpage, the doctors reached out to the stroke team at LIJ Medical Center, and a consultation was ordered from North Shore University Hospital’s (NSUH) Telestroke Program. Through the Telestroke Program, patients like Ms. Survilla can receive treatment from a specialist even if they are miles away — making real-time, interactive communication possible between patients and stroke specialists at remote locations.

Saving Lives Virtually

The technology is a game changer. “Telestroke evaluates patients remotely using video teleconferencing equipment and software,” said Jeffrey Katz, MD, chief of vascular neurology at NSUH. During the video chat, it became clear Ms. Survilla had suffered a stroke, and NSUH’s stroke neurologists were able to intervene as soon as she arrived — saving her life.

“Our health system is the largest provider of Telestroke communications in this region. This is certainly a beautiful story of a daughter’s love for her mother and the importance of having state-of-the-art technology at our disposal,” Dr. Katz said.

Prior to the new program, patients with a possible stroke would arrive at the Emergency Department for evaluation. The physician would then call the stroke neurologists at NSUH to discuss the patient’s signs and symptoms and whether to transfer the patient to NSUH’s designated stroke center. But this process took a long time, preventing patients from getting immediate care.

To increase the chances of a full recovery from stroke, timing is key. Patients with stroke symptoms can receive tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is a clot-busting drug that can dissolve a blood clot and prevent the stroke area from becoming larger. The drug is only effective if it’s administered within three hours of stroke symptoms.

Telestroke in Action

When a potential stroke patient comes to the Emergency Department, a cart with a monitor and a camera is wheeled to the patient’s bedside. The cart remotely connects to the stroke neurologist’s workstation at a remote location. “We can see patients immediately and help make decisions about their treatment, including whether the patient needs to be transferred,” Dr. Katz said. Being able to listen to patients and ask them questions helps the stroke neurologists make accurate diagnostic and treatment decisions.

“Video is worth a thousand words,” Dr. Katz said.

In addition to NSUH, Telestroke will roll out to LIJ Medical Center, Southside Hospital and Glen Cove Hospital in the coming months. “We hope it will lead to more patients being appropriately treated with tPA or other therapies,” Dr. Katz said.


Stroke by the Numbers

Every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a stroke.

49% of Americans have at least one of the three major risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.


Comprehensive Stroke Care

LIJ Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) recently received the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for consistent adherence to protocols that reduce stroke-related mortalities and decrease long-term disability for stroke patients.

Furthermore, NSUH is the first Long Island hospital to receive advanced certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. The hospital’s ability to treat the most complex stroke cases earned it The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark. Only three other New York State hospitals have achieved this advanced certification.


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