THOMSON - Sometimes being No. 1 isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Georgia is known as being the heart of the so-called "stroke belt," with the state having the highest concentration of stroke patients in the country.
However, preventative measures are being taken in rural areas of the state - including Thomson's McDuffie Regional Medical Center - where many hospitals don't have neurologists to diagnose and treat afflictions such as strokes.
Launching earlier this month was the REACH (Remote Evaluation of Acute isCHemic Stroke) program, which enables neurologists at the Medical College of Georgia to evaluate a stroke patient using a secured videoconferencing procedure, allowing doctors to discuss treatment options over a dedicated Internet connection.
When dealing with stroke patients, proper diagnosis within a short period of time is critical.
Registered nurse Thomas Jackson uses McDuffie Regional Medical Center's Remote Evaluation of Acute isCHemic Stroke, or REACH, program. The program is in conjunction with the Medical College of Georgia.
Photo by Elwood Hamilton
"When you have a stroke, the only drug that works is TPA (tissue plasminogen activator), and the drug only has a three-hour window," said Dr. David Hess, chairman of the neurology department at MCG. "We've been able to observe via the Internet remotely just as we can if we're on site. We can see the patient, give the patient a quantitative score and then we're able to look at the CAT scan, look at the brain, and make a decision."
McDuffie Regional Medical Center is one of two places where REACH is being used on a trial basis. So far, the system has been accessed many times. McDuffie Regional's Dr. Louise Yates said doctors have used REACH twice in the past few weeks and, as a result, one woman saw "a dramatic turnaround in her symptoms."
"The neurologist being available where we can give that information immediately over a secured line essentially brings the neurologist bedside to McDuffie County," Yates said.
She said that the neurologists at MCG are more familiar with stroke patients and therefore provide essential in diagnosing strokes.
The American Heart Association says that warning signs of stroke may include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headaches with no known cause.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month.
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