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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

January 18, 2013
Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
              Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Clark Fork Valley Hospital joins Montana Telestroke Network

New communications technology is now in place to help Clark Fork Valley Hospital provide early treatment options to people experiencing stroke. The community hospital in Plains has joined a group of hospitals in the Montana Telestroke Network.

Until now, Plains, like most rural areas, lacked access to stroke neurologists who can provide advanced care in the first hours of a stroke. Through the telestroke system, a stroke specialist can examine patients remotely using Internet-based two-way audio/video. This allows the patient and Emergency Department staff to seek a stroke diagnosis quickly. Important diagnostic images, such as CAT scans, can be sent over the system directly to the specialist. Overall, the telestroke system can greatly reduce the time to treatment. 

Fast diagnosis is vital in the case of stroke, because delay can reduce treatment options. Most, but not all, strokes are caused by blood clots. The recommended treatment for these strokes is a naturally occurring enzyme that helps dissolve blood clots, called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA. Without it, a blood clot can continue to starve brain cells and cause them to die. Though tPA can dramatically reduce the risk of long-term disability, it must be given within three hours from the time symptoms begin. The telestroke system allows rapid consultation with a medical specialist to determine if a stroke is caused by a blood clot. Thanks to the telestroke network, stroke patients at Clark Fork Valley Hospital can be diagnosed accurately and quickly so that those eligible for tPA can be treated in time to benefit.

"Even with an excellent emergency medical services team, the time it takes to transport a patient to a major hospital can use up precious minutes that are needed for imaging, assessment and treatment decisions. We are grateful to the Department of Public Health and Human Services' Montana Stroke Initiative for helping to give rural residents an improvement in health care delivery and a chance at better outcomes from stroke," said Dawn Lynch, Director of Patient Care Services at Clark Fork Valley Hospital.

Clark Fork Valley Hospital is part of the Kalispell Regional Medical Center telestroke hub, which also serves Libby, Ronan and Whitefish. Since 2010, the Kalispell hub has been used for ten consultations.

Along with increasing access to expert stroke teams, the Montana Stroke Initiative is working to increase public knowledge of the signs and symptoms of stroke. Recently, a media campaign began to educate Plains area residents to recognize stroke and seek immediate emergency treatment by calling 9-1-1. The campaign also highlights the risk factors associated with stroke—since 80 percent of strokes could be prevented. Information about stroke is now available at various locations throughout the community.

For more information on stroke, please visit the National Stroke Association at www.stroke.org

Page last updated: 01/18/2013