Stroke Technology Saves Lives When Minutes Matter
Just a week earlier, Harrigan, 58, was diagnosed with high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm. He continued to have shortness of breath, but dismissed it as a symptom of his newly diagnosed heart condition, and planned to inform his physician at his next scheduled appointment.
As he drove that Monday morning, Harrigan noticed his shortness of breath worsening. He decided to pull over near the Johnson Creek exit on I-94. Harrigan grabbed his water and was not able to control his left hand movements. The left side of his face was drooping and his speech was slurred. Harrigan did the right thing in this situation: He called 911.
The ambulance transported him to Watertown Regional Medical Center, where an emergency-room physician determined that Harrigan was having a stroke. Then, he became the first University of Wisconsin Telestroke Network patient.
Offered through a partnership with UW Health, Watertown Regional Medical Center's telestroke program is the first in Wisconsin, providing patients with 24/7 telemedicine access to nationally recognized stroke experts.
In Harrigan's case, interactive camera and web technology allowed UW Health neurologist Ross Levine, MD, in Madison, to perform a comprehensive stroke evaluation and determine that Harrigan was a candidate for tPA treatment. This clotbusting drug, a lifesaver for many stroke victims, needs to be administered within three hours of the onset of a stroke. Thanks to the immediate neurology consult, Harrigan received the tPA within 90 minutes of his initial symptoms.
Harrigan was eventually transported to UW Hospital, where he received five days of treatment for his heart condition.
A few weeks after this experience, Harrigan has recovered from his stroke with just a bit of weakness in his left hand; his doctors expect an eventual full recovery. Harrigan truly believes that the quick response of the Telestroke program saved his life.
"I had not heard of Watertown Regional Medical Center before, but today I am sure glad I know who they are," Harrigan said. "The Telestroke program saved my life and the quality of life that I will have moving forward. The nurses and physicians at both facilities were exceptional and provided excellent care when I needed it most."
At UW Health, neurologists were also pleased that the Wisconsin Telestroke Network worked as well as they thought it would.
"Mr. Harrigan's case demonstrates our favorite saying: time equals brain," said Justin Sattin, MD, director of the UW Comprehensive Stroke Center. "He did the right thing by calling 911 when his symptoms began, and received prompt and excellent care in Watertown. The telestroke system then did its part, by quickly bringing stroke neurologists onto his medical team, allowing him to receive brain-saving treatment right away."
Sattin said that telemedicine is a major advancement in acute stroke treatment. Patients can be evaluated and treated in their home communities, with the help of stroke specialists who may be some distance away. This type of partnership between community and tertiary centers is a new model of care that holds great promise for assuring that patients, no matter where they reside, can have access to the most highly specialized physicians.
Date Published: 06/17/2009