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Monday 22 April 2024

Video calls speed up stroke treatment times

A trial has found video calls with paramedics can help identify and treat stroke patients faster.

Suspected stroke patients were assessed before they reached the hospital in the pilot at University Hospital Southampton (UHS).

Results show the approach can speed up treatment times and improve chances of recovery. It could also save hundreds of thousands of pounds by cutting unnecessary admissions to the hyper-acute stroke unit (HASU).

Experts in the Hyperacute Stroke Research Centre at UHS led the trial. It was funded by a £100,000 award from NHS England.

What is a stroke?

Around 100,000 people have a stroke each year in the UK, which is approximately one stroke every five minutes.

A stroke is a medical emergency that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. It is a major cause of death and disability.

The sooner a stroke patient receives treatment, the greater their chance of recovery. This may involve thrombolysis (a clot busting injection) or thrombectomy (an operation to remove a clot from a blocked cerebral artery).

Fast-tracking care

Paramedics made video calls to UHS at the scene of 60 suspected strokes.

Following assessment by stroke specialists, 30 patients were admitted to the HASU. A further 22 were admitted to the Emergency Department.

The approach has proven to be a success – with stroke patients gaining access to life-saving treatment around 20 minutes faster, according to initial results.

Dr Richard Marigold is a consultant in stroke medicine at UHS and the new holder of a Research Leaders Programme award. He said:

“This study provides clear evidence in support of virtual stroke assessment.

“Urgent treatment is essential as relatively small amounts of time can make a big difference to outcomes.

“For every half an hour you delay treatments in this setting, patients have a 10% less likely chance of returning to independent living.”

Looking to the future

Non-stroke patients were reviewed in just 12 minutes on average, allowing stroke specialists to focus their attention where it was most needed.

The new approach has also reduced the number of patients with other conditions being admitted to the HASU.

The average length of stay for a stroke mimic is 1.7 days, with the cost of a bed in the HASU being £500 per night. It is estimated UHS could save over £300,000 a year by continuing with virtual assessment.

Dr Marigold added: “Our goal is to increase the percentage of calls that come through to video assessment, ensuring faster stroke identification and treatment.

“We envision this becoming part of routine clinical practice and hope it will be rolled out across Wessex in the future.”