Medical Moment: Life-saving Stroke Medicine at Med Center

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Medical Moment: Life-saving Stroke Medicine at Med Center

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Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Dr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s question: Does the Telluride Med Center have the life-saving medicine to offset a stroke?

An acute ischemic stroke generally occurs when a blood clot or obstruction blocks the flow of blood in the brain. A potential treatment is an IV medicine given to break up the clot. However, it must be given within 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms of the stroke, or the risk of the medication increases and the efficacy lessens.

Now, this life saving medicine, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), is available at the Telluride Medical Center.

In the past, when these patients were identified, we would transfer them as quickly as possible to either St. Mary’s or sometimes Denver to get the clot-busting medicine. Now, we can shorten the time between onset of symptoms and medication administration, which has been shown to make the medicine more effective.

tPA is very expensive, and most small clinics do not have the resources to stock it. Thanks to the generosity of our Telluride Medical Center Foundation donors, the Medical Center is able to purchase the first dose for the Emergency Department.

The results of a five-year trial, conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that carefully selected stroke patients who received tPA within three hours of the beginning of stroke symptoms were at least 33 percent more likely than patients given a placebo to recover from their stroke with little or no disability after three months. The most serious complication associated with the treatment is brain hemorrhage (bleeding). For this reason, patients are carefully screened to minimize the risks of bleeding.

I recommend calling 911 at the first sign of a stroke. Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, confusion, trouble speaking or comprehending, trouble seeing with one or both eyes, difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance/coordination, or sudden and severe headache with no known cause.

Having tPA in stock at the Telluride Medical Center means more patients will benefit from receiving the clot-busting treatment before being transferred to a higher level of care. In the case of acute stroke, minimizing the time before treatment may mean decreased disability and even save a life.

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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