May is National Stroke Awareness Month 

SPRINGFIELD –There are many messages to be shared as part of National Stroke Awareness Month in May, from signs and symptoms to risks and prevention. 

Perhaps none is more important than the ability to act quickly once you recognize that you or someone you are with is having a stroke. 

“Time is crucial and the longer you wait to get care, the more damage occurs to your brain cells,” said Dr. Rajiv Padmanabhan of the Department of Neurology at Baystate Health. “Better stroke outcomes begin with stroke recognition and calling 9-1-1 immediately.” 

Padmanabhan, who serves as medical director of the Stroke Program, noted that Baystate is also ready to “act quickly” once the Emergency Department receives notice that a stroke victim is on their way to the hospital. 

Efficient and reliable communication between hospital emergency departments and emergency medical services (EMS) teams is essential for patients to get the immediate care they need, especially in time-sensitive cases such as a stroke. 

Thanks to ground-breaking technology using secure e-bridge two-way EMS to ED communications, paramedics can notify the Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department (or its EDs at Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer, Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield) to mobilize its stroke team – neurosurgeons, neurologists, emergency doctors, radiologists, physiatrists, and other team members so they can be ready for the patient to arrive. Also, when local EMS providers transport a patient who has experienced a stroke, Baystate’s EDs stay in constant contact in order to speed up the patient’s care. 

Upon arrival at the emergency department, stoke patients are rushed directly to radiology, where they undergo a CT scan that images their brain and blood vessels. If there is bleeding, a neurosurgeon is consulted. However, if there is no bleeding and the patient qualifies, they may receive thrombolytics which break up the blood clot causing the blockage.  

Roughly 2 million cells die every minute during a stroke. As time passes, your risk of permanent brain damage, disability, or death goes up. The timely administration of thrombolytics may help reduce the impact of the stroke when given within 4.5 hours of the stroke. Earlier is better, and people have the best results if treatment begins within 90 minutes of the start of the stroke. 

 If it is found that a large blood vessel is blocked, the patient may go to the cath lab for a procedure to remove the clot and open the blood vessel back up. Mechanical thrombectomy involves inserting a thin metallic stent-like device into an artery in the leg. The surgeon then threads the device up to the blockage in the brain. The device opens up to immediately restore blood circulation, eventually grabbing onto the clot and pulling it out. 

The innovative procedure, exclusive in Western Mass. to Baystate Medical Center, is a dramatically successful treatment for blocked brain arteries causing acute ischemic stroke, whether or not the patient receives intravenous thrombolytics. It has a proven benefit and is low risk. As always, the faster the circulation is restored, the better the outcome. 

After either receiving the clot busting drug and/or neuroendovascular intervention, patients are admitted to the ICU to be closely monitored for 24 hours before being moved to the hospital’s Neuro Unit, where they will be evaluated by rehab physicians and therapists who will develop a personalized plan for their recovery. 

Each year, the Acute Stroke Team at Baystate Medical Center cares for more than 1,700 patients who have experienced a stroke. That’s more than any other hospital in Western Mass.