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MUSC stroke program takes 'Time is Brain' to heart, wins national award

Helen Adams | MUSC News Center | October 8, 2014

stroke award
Sarah Pack
Dr. Christine Holmstedt explains how speeding up treatment time through MUSC's Comprehensive Stroke Program helped MUSC earn national recognition. 

The Medical University of South Carolina has reduced its “door-to-treatment time” for stroke patients from 38 to 28 minutes during the past year. That’s one of the best times in the country for hospitals in its category, and part of the reason MUSC has received two new national honors from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

“It’s been a tremendous effort,” said Christine Holmstedt, D.O., medical director of MUSC’s Clinical Stroke Program and co-director of MUSC’s Stroke and Cerebrovascular Program. “Time is brain.”

The faster a stroke patient gets treatment, the less brain damage he or she may suffer. That’s why door-to-treatment time is so important. It measures the minutes between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and the time he or she receives medication to treat the blood clot or broken vessel that caused the stroke.

Hospitals in MUSC’s category have an average door-to-treatment time of 56 minutes, twice as long as MUSC’s average.

The AHA/ASA is recognizing the efforts of MUSC’s Comprehensive Stroke Program by giving it a Get with the Guidelines-Stroke Gold-Plus Quality Achievement Award for a fifth consecutive year and naming MUSC to its Target: Stroke Honor Roll.

The Gold Plus award is based on adherence to the best standards for stroke treatment. The honor roll designation recognizes MUSC’s ability to quickly get the clot-busting medication tPA to stroke patients who need it. Again, time is key because tPA has to be given within three hours of a stroke in most cases for it to improve the person’s chance of recovery.

Holmstedt described how MUSC’s emphasis on speed in treating stroke patients affected a recent patient.

“A gentleman visiting Edisto Island was found on the floor by his wife. She called 911, and a helicopter rushed him to MUSC. He got his tPA immediately and went off for a thrombectomy. We’re one of the few sites for that in South Carolina,” Holmstedt said, explaining that a thrombectomy is a specialized procedure that removes blood clots.

“He made a near complete recovery and was discharged two days later.”

South Carolina has one of the highest stroke death rates in the country, so MUSC revamped its stroke treatment about seven years ago to expand its Comprehensive Stroke Program statewide, Holmstedt said.

The focus is on speedy, high-quality stroke treatment at MUSC and a stroke telehealth network, linking smaller hospitals with larger centers. Now, doctors at smaller hospitals have specialized stroke experts on call, which increases the number of patients who may receive tPA.

MUSC continues to expand its stroke treatment team, and recently recruited a nurse who focuses on stroke data collection and patient education.

“We’ve come a long way,” Holmstedt said. “We cut out everything that didn’t need to be done and streamlined the process. The relationships we’ve built around the state are incredible.”



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