New diagnostic tool provides better information for stroke treatment decisions

When minutes count, Bluewater Health is launching a new artificial intelligence tool to help quickly identify patients eligible for hyperacute stroke treatment.

“In the world of stroke, it’s often said that ‘time is brain,’” says Dr. Pandu Shetty, Internist & Stroke Team Lead. “When oxygen-rich blood is blocked from reaching the brain, more brain cells will die, leading to damage and disability. Early intervention in stroke is critical for better chances of recovery. Using the power of technology, this software allows us to quickly identify patients who could benefit from clot removal intervention, and aim to have them ready for transfer to London within the best-practice window of 45 minutes of arriving to hospital.”

Stroke patients undergo CT imaging of the brain. With the addition of new technology, appropriate patients’ scans will be analyzed through the new software tool, which uses artificial intelligence to assess the CT images. In under four minutes, the software can predict whether there has been cell death, and  help quantify the amount of brain tissue that can be saved.

Bluewater Health partnered with Windsor Regional Hospital in this worthwhile patient care initiative to  share both costs and infrastructure in purchasing this diagnostic tool. This example of collaboration benefits patients in the region and the health system.

“This technology represents an investment in Lambton County’s District Stroke Centre and the diagnostic  testing involved in the care for stroke patients,” adds Dr. Youssef Almalki. “This diagnostic tool allows  for faster analysis and better informs the clinical decision-making to determine the best treatment options for each stroke patient.”

The software is also beneficial in supporting patients threatened with stroke in the extended time window since their symptoms began (those who present to hospital within six to 24 hours from stroke symptom onset). Research is demonstrating benefit of intervention for patients in this extended time window, and Ontario recently moved forward with a 24-hour stroke treatment window for select patients.

FAST is an acronym to help people identify the common symptoms of a stroke: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call 911 right away. Time is critical. The sooner people access medical help following the signs and symptoms of stroke the better their outcome.

Patients who access a designated stroke centre within four and a half hours of having the signs and symptoms of a stroke may be eligible for tPA, a clot-busting drug. In addition, Endovascular Treatment (EVT) may be an option for patients who present to hospital within six hours of stroke symptom onset and some patients may be eligible up to 24 hours. EVT is a treatment that removes large stroke causing blood clots from the brain. Patients are transferred to our Regional Stroke Centre, University Hospital, in London for EVT.

Sarnia’s Bluewater Health is designated as the District Stroke Centre for Sarnia-Lambton, as part of the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Network which is 1 of 11 Stroke Networks in Ontario. The hospital remains safe for patients seeking care, and the Emergency Department is here for the sickest people in our comm