Called Arkansas SAVES (Stroke Assistance Through Virtual Emergency Support), the program uses a high-tech video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients 24 hours a day. The real-time video communication enables a stroke neurologist to authorize emergency room physicians to use a powerful blood thinner within the critical three-hour period following the first signs of stroke.
The SAVES program is a partnership between the UAMS Center for Distance Health, the state Department of Human Services, Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith and Arkansas Methodist Medical Center.
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas had 1,847 stroke-related deaths in 2005, and ranks third highest among all states in stroke deaths, with 61 per 100,000 residents. The nationwide direct and indirect cost of medical and institutional care of permanently disabled stroke victims was $57.9 billion in 2006.
Stroke patients are at high risk of death or permanent disability, but patients who have an ischemic stroke can be helped with the blood-clot dissolving agent called t-PA. The drug must be given within three hours of the stroke and only to patients who have ischemic stroke caused by a blood clot, rather than a hemorrhagic stroke caused when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into surrounding brain tissue.
The Arkansas SAVES system relies on the state Health Department’s hospital preparedness high-speed video network transmission lines that provide the live, video communication necessary to link an on-call neurologist with a local hospital physician who is caring for a stroke patient.
Since the program began Nov. 1, 2008, 99 stroke patients have been treated by SAVES neurologists and 15 have received the t-PA drug.
It’s important that the public be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as sudden weakness, numbness, unsteady gait, and visual and speech problems.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,775 students and 748 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.