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TMCNet:  Mayo in La Crosse starts TV link with Rochester to treat strokes

[January 10, 2013]

Mayo in La Crosse starts TV link with Rochester to treat strokes

Jan 10, 2013 (La Crosse Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A new telecommunications method for evaluating stroke patients at the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse gives neurologists at Mayo's flagship in Rochester, Minn., a bird's-eye view to help determine treatment.

The method, called telestroke, incorporates a Skype-type link between Mayo's emergency room in La Crosse and Rochester.

Previously, such consultations were by phone, but telestroke allows the Rochester neurologist to see and talk to the La Crosse doctor, the patient and family members, as well as view the patient's CT scan, Mayo officials said as they demonstrated the system Tuesday.

"This allows the stroke neurologist to help decide which candidates go to Rochester for very specialized treatments," said Dr. Greg Pupillo, a neurologist at the La Crosse facility, which he said treated 140 stroke patients last year.

The advantage is "having an experienced neurosurgeon as opposed to a general ER surgeon" making the final diagnosis, Pupillo said.

"Obviously, being in the room with the patient is the gold standard," but telestroke speeds evaluations, he said.

A stroke is the result of a clot that blocks the flow of blood to part of the brain. Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Treatment is simpler when the patient is checked within four and a half hours of the appearance of symptoms, which include factors such as numbness of the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion; sudden trouble seeing or walking; dizziness; loss of balance; and sudden severe headache.

"Those beyond the four-and-a-half to eight-hour window are at higher risk for treatment" and may need an 18-minute helicopter ride to Rochester for specialized care, Pupillo said.

The La Crosse facility, which has had telestroke for about a month but has not needed to use it for patients yet, is the second in the regional Mayo system to get telestroke. The first was in Austin, Minn.

"Austin doesn't have neurologists, so it will be used for all stroke patients there," Pupillo said.

The system is expected to be installed at Mayo's Sparta clinic by the end of the year, he said.

"Having this in Sparta would allow transferring patients to a facility such as ourselves or Gundersen with more advanced treatments," he said.

Officials at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse said Gundersen's Stroke Alert program allows them to treat stroke patients here without transferring them elsewhere.

That program, available to Gundersen facilities throughout its 19-county region, "gives emergency room physicians immediate access to a neurologist via phone," said David Guggenbuehl, Gundersen's regional services director.

If the consultation determines that the patient needs more specialized treatment, the patient is transported to Gundersen's La Crosse campus, said Mike McKee, Gundersen's administrative director of neurosciences.

___ (c)2013 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.) Visit the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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