Fast Stroke Response Saves Brain Cells | Inspiring Health | © Sacred Heart Hospital

Fast Stroke Response Saves Brain Cells

Using telemedicine technology, stroke specialists can evaluate and treat symptoms as quickly and effectively as possible.

When it comes to stroke, each minute without medical attention can put a person at risk for losing precious and irreplaceable brain tissue. Telemedicine capabilities now make it possible for the stroke specialists at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital to observe and make treatment recommendations for patients in facilities and communities that may not have immediate access to this advanced care.

“If a patient who has experienced a stroke presents to the emergency room or another facility where a neurology specialist is not always on site, a stroke specialist can evaluate the condition and recommend a plan of care via telemedicine options,” says Jacques Tham, MD, Interventional Radiologist on staff at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

“Thanks to image-sharing technology and video conferencing options, the stroke specialist can act quickly to make critical decisions, which may mean the difference between life and death or degree of recovery.”

Taking Action

As soon as emergency professionals respond to stroke, they launch into action, performing tests to determine which type of stroke the patient is experiencing. To identify whether a stroke is ischemic (caused by a blocked artery leading to or in the brain) or hemorrhagic (caused by a ruptured blood vessel), they may conduct a physical and neurological examination, lab tests, or imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using telemedicine technology, the medical team with the patient can then immediately communicate test results to stroke specialists at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

At that point, off-site stroke specialists can decide if medical professionals should intravenously administer clot-busting tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to treat ischemic stroke. In cases of severe stroke, this is also the time when they may need to assemble a team of interventional radiology specialists to perform a clot retrieval and extract the stroke-causing blood clot from the brain. HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is the only hospital in northwest Wisconsin to offer this potentially lifesaving procedure.

“Telemedicine allows the specialist to be right there with the patient on many levels, taking advantage of every minute,” Dr. Tham says. “Our goal is to be able to provide the same high quality care to patients at HSHS Sacred Heart as well as those in surrounding communities who may not have easy access to specialty care.”

Learn more about our stroke services at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital


A simple acronym can help you identify stroke and take steps to call for timely treatment.

If you notice:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Slurred speech, it is …
  • Time to call 911

“One of the main limitations for successful treatment of stroke is irreversible tissue damage that occurred because a patient did not get to the hospital quickly enough,” says Jacques Tham, MD, Interventional Radiologist on staff at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital. “F.A.S.T. is a valuable and easy set of guidelines to help people of all ages be vigilant.”

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