New diagnostic tool highlights the importance of stroke treatment

Main entrance at Bluewater Health's Sarnia hospital. Photo by Meghan Bond.

Bluewater Health is recognizing Stroke Awareness Month with the use of a new diagnostic tool to better select treatment options in a short amount of time.

Bluewater Health and Windsor Regional Hospital recently partnered to purchase an artificial intelligence tool that analyses CT brain images and determines the area with irreversible cell death and the at-risk area if proper blood flow is not restored. Doctors are then able to determine if thrombolytic therapy — also known as a clot-busting drug — is the best option or if a patient should be sent to University Hospital in London for a clot retrieval procedure.

If a stroke patient needs to be transferred to London, the goal is to have them ready for transfer within 45 minutes of arriving at the hospital, read a release from Bluewater Health.

Internist and Stroke Team Lead Dr. Pandu Shetty said when it comes to stroke patients, every minute counts, which is why the new tool is so helpful.

“The time factor is very important. [With] every minute of delay, you lose more brain cells, you have more disabilities, your recovery is slow, [and the] outcome is poor,” he said.

The new software also helps patients who are threatened with stroke should they arrive at the hospital within six to 24 hours from when symptoms began.

“More and more people are coming on time and more and more people are getting treatment because of the public education,” said Shetty. “The outcome that we see nowadays of stroke is better than what it used to be several years back.”

Bluewater Health said because the hospital shared both cost and infrastructure to purchase the diagnostic tool, each hospital saved approximately $75,000.

“The IT infrastructure is housed centrally in the regional data centre, which is shared by all hospitals in the region,” read an emailed statement from Bluewater Health. “Each hospital has its own annual subscription to the software.”

Dr. Shetty said aside from acting quickly at a medical level, it is important for residents to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and act quickly.

“If you want to prevent the stroke, you have to prevent the rupture and blockage of the blood vessels [in the brain]. How do you do that? One, good control of blood pressure; number two, good control of blood sugar; number three, good control of cholesterol; number four, don’t smoke,” he said. “These are the four major risk factors.”

June is recognized as Stroke Awareness Month in Canada.

-With files from Sue Storr