Every Minute Matters

Dr. Arun Talkad
OSF HealthCare

When a stroke hits, time is critical. In fact, the single most important factor in surviving a stroke is getting the right treatment as soon as possible.

That means calling 911 and getting transported to the emergency department. For people in and around Peoria, OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center is one of about 200 hospitals in the nation designated as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, meaning it can offer every type of stroke treatment 24 hours a day.

But people who live relatively far from Peoria, those who rely on a smaller hospital for care, should be able to get the most appropriate treatment available, too. That is why I have been tasked with creating a uniform approach to stroke care at every hospital in the OSF HealthCare system.

My major vision is to be able to provide an expert level of neurological care to any patient in any hospital in the system. The practical approach to that vision is to bring the OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute stroke specialists in Peoria out to the hospitals. The best way we can utilize these neurologists, whose expertise is our greatest resource, is to use technology and telemedicine. I want to develop a virtual electronic rounding service for inpatient neurology conditions, so the providers at all of our hospitals know expert neurological care is just a couple of mouse clicks away.

Stroke is a time-sensitive condition, and minutes matter. Every minute a stroke goes untreated, nearly two million brain cells die. The longer it takes to treat a stroke, the worse patient outcomes become. We want to make sure every patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider. If we can do that close to home, then we should.

Complex stroke patients have to be sent to Comprehensive Stroke Centers, like OSF Saint Francis in Peoria or OSF Saint Anthony in Rockford. However, those are not the majority of cases. Routine cases can be handled at every hospital in the system. We need to stop looking at it as several separate hospitals, and look at it as a single hospital with beds spread throughout central Illinois. We need to have a uniform approach that optimizes all of our resources.

We also need to increase stroke education throughout the communities we serve. There’s a definite lack of it, and that education is going to be critical. We have more and more advanced options for treating strokes, but if you don’t know how to spot a stroke when it’s happening, you likely won’t seek treatment when needed.

First, you need to know the signs of stroke. The signs can be remembered using the acronym F.A.S.T.

  • Face: one side of a person’s face droops, or the smile is crooked.
  • Arm: a person has trouble holding one or both arms up.
  • Speech: a person has slurred or slow speech.
  • Time: note the time when symptoms began.

If you spot any of these symptoms in yourself or another person, call 911 immediately. It is the fastest way to proper treatment. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. The EMS team can communicate with the hospital en route, so the stroke care team is ready upon your arrival. This saves precious time. And remember, you lose nearly two million neurons in your brain every minute a stroke goes untreated, so time is critical. iBi

Dr. Arun Talkad was recently named the Ministry Medical Director of Stroke for OSF HealthCare.

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