Program will boost care for stroke victims

Bryn Stole, Greenwood Commonwealth

Greenwood Leflore Hospital is launching a new telemedicine program with St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson designed to improve care for stroke victims.
The program, which begins Wednesday, will allow neurologists at St. Dominic to evaluate and order treatment for patients at Greenwood Leflore Hospital when the local hospital’s sole neurologist, Dr. Ravi Pande, is unavailable.
Officials from both hospitals said that could make a critical difference for stroke victims, allowing many to be treated closer to home and delivering care quicker.
“Time is of the essence with strokes,” said Pande. “I think it will make a huge difference.”
Pande said the typical course of treatment for a stroke — administering a powerful blood thinner known as tPA — has been shown to be most effective when administered shortly after the onset of a stroke, ideally within three hours.
“Now it’s available here instead of going to the bigger cities,” said Lisa Byroads, a registered nurse and the stroke coordinator at Greenwood Leflore Hospital. “It’s much quicker care.”
Since stroke victims generally need to be evaluated by a neurologist to be effectively treated, Pande said the new telemedicine program with St. Dominic — which will also raise Greenwood Leflore’s stroke center certification to Level II — will allow more patients to be treated locally.
“Within 25 minutes of them hitting the door at Greenwood Leflore Hospital, they’ll have a specialist at the bedside,” said Wendy Barrilleaux, a physical therapist and the stroke program coordinator at St. Dominic.
“They’ll do a complete neurological assessment and can make recommendations about stroke care,” Barrilleaux said. “In many instances, the care will be provided here at Greenwood Leflore Hospital.”
It will also allow the hospital to provide consistent treatment for all but the most complex and difficult cases, Pande said.
The hospital’s two neurosurgeons — Dr. Craig Clark and Dr. Jimmy Miller — can treat stroke patients in case the blood thinners trigger internal bleeding.
Pande said the small percentage of stroke victims who require a complex surgical procedure to remove a blood clot will still need to be transported to a larger hospital. Otherwise, he said, Greenwood Leflore Hospital will be able to provide the best treatment of any facility between Memphis and Jackson.
In his 16 years working as a neurologist in Greenwood, Pande said, the vast majority of the patients he treats — about 90 percent — are victims of stroke.
For a variety of reasons, including higher-than-average smoking rates, endemic diabetes and poor diets, the South is known as the “Stroke Belt,” Pande said.
“People don’t take this seriously because there are certain myths about strokes,” including mistaken beliefs about a lack of treatment options, that strokes only affect the elderly and that they can’t be prevented, he said.
In fact, Pande said, about 80 percent of all strokes — which kill about 130,000 Americans each year — are preventable, can strike at any age and are treatable if medical care is sought quickly.
“In the past month, I gave tPA to four patients and all of them walked out of the hospital,” Pande said.
The key, Pande said, is to identify the symptoms of a stroke — slurred speech, partial facial paralysis, blurred vision or weakness in one leg or arm — and immediately call 911.
Once the hospital’s Level II rating goes into effect on Wednesday, it will also deliver a higher level of care to stroke victims throughout the Delta. Jim Jackson, the CEO of the hospital, said in an email that he was proud of the work that had gone into putting together the new program and upgrading the hospital’s stroke certification.
“We are excited to announce that we are able to expand and improve our services to the community,” Jackson said. “Special thanks go to our Neuro-Sciences team and our Emergency Department team of physicians for their leadership in pursuing a more timely and enhanced level of stroke treatment.”