University Hospital of North Staffordshire TV link will save patients' lives
DOZENS more stroke victims in Staffordshire are set to have their lives saved – with the help of television images beamed from the county's biggest hospital.
Up to 80 people at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire have already had their survival chances transformed by a revolutionary technique mastered by its doctors.
Now the doctors' expertise will be transmitted by a new television link to medics at other hospitals battling to treat their own dying patients.
The thrombolysis procedure involves injecting clot-busting drugs into the brain through the body's arteries.
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But it can only work if patients are given the treatment within three hours of having their stroke and it was not available at all the region's hospitals.
From today, the new link – called telemedicine – will bring the same benefits to victims taken to emergency departments elsewhere, including at Stafford Hospital.
The patients are placed in front of a video camera, with the images relayed back to the specialists at the University Hospital.
There, the doctors can see patients' scan results and even speak to them and their relatives to assess their suitability for the clot-busting medication – before remotely guiding the medics on the ground through the technique.
It is the first time telemedicine has been used with stroke patients in the West Midlands and has taken two years to develop the technology and working arrangements between the hospitals.
Project leader Dr Indira Natarajan, who helped pioneer the work at the University Hospital two years ago, said: "This allows those arriving at their local hospital to receive thrombolysis rapidly at any time.
"We know that if suitable patients are given the clot-busting drugs within three hours of the onset of their symptoms it will allow them to recover quicker, reduce disability and have a better quality of life.
"A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain gets blocked by a clot cutting off the blood supply to the brain.
"But thrombolysis breaks up the clot, unblocking the artery which allows the blood to get through to the brain and prevent significant damage."
Dave Morfitt, aged 60, of Burslem, who had a stroke eight years ago and is chairman of North Staffordshire Strokes R Us, said: "This is a massive step forward.
"Many people will have their lives saved by the clot-busting drug. It's remarkable that our hospital is now helping people many miles away have the same technique."
The initiative comes as experts at the same hospital are researching whether bat saliva can be used in the injections so they can be given to patients up to nine hours after their stroke. Vampire bats have been chosen for the research because they use their spit to keep the blood of their prey thin enough to drink.
Life after a stroke: Pages 16&17