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Stroke service expansion means faster treatment for patients

Stroke service expansion means faster treatment for patients

More patients at risk of having a stroke are getting faster treatment through an expansion to Tauranga Hospital’s Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) Clinic.

A ‘mini stroke’ or TIA is often thought of as wake-up call for patients. You’re at greater risk of having a stroke within the first few days after a TIA and evidence shows more than one in 12 people will have a stroke within a week.

“It’s crucial to be assessed and get the right treatment in those first few days,” says Geriatrician and Stroke Physician Dr Mohana Maddula. “That can greatly reduce the possibility of a patient suffering a stroke and their quality of life going forward.”

With that in mind, Dr Maddula, who moved to Tauranga from the UK at the beginning of the year, set out to improve the way the TIA Clinic was operating. As a result the clinic, which had been operating twice a week, is now seeing patients every week day.

“We’ve also streamlined the process for referring patients. GPs can now refer patients who are suspected of having had a TIA electronically, directly to the clinic which means patients are assessed much faster. Patients who come to ED are also fast tracked directly to the clinic.”

Since the changes were made, more patients are being seen each week. Patients referred from their GP are being assessed within 1-2 days on average, whereas previously the average wait was about a week.

Stroke is the second largest killer in New Zealand, and for those who survive, it may be a life-changing event. Around 9000 New Zealanders have a stroke every year. One of the key diagnostic tools to determine whether a patient needs surgery to prevent a stroke happening is a Carotid ultrasound.

“We’re looking for blood clots in the neck arteries – a telltale sign that the patient is at extreme high risk of having a stroke,” says Dr Maddula.

“Through a better screening process coupled with faster access to Radiology, high risk patients are identified and have those vital diagnostic tests much sooner. Over a two month period, 25 patients who needed a Carotid ultrasound to look for a ‘narrowing’ in the neck blood vessels had this test on the same day, whereas previously patients were having to wait more than two weeks on average for this test.”

For Tauranga man, Jack Kaleopa, having those vital diagnostic tests quickly was a huge relief.

“I was having my morning cuppa when my arm felt heavy and then I couldn’t move it. I freaked out. Luckily my son was there and he took me straight to ED.”

Jack was fast-tracked to the TIA Clinic. He’d had a mini-stroke, the necessary tests were performed showing no damage to his brain. The doctor altered the medication he was already on, and he was able to go home the same day.

“Before I retired I worked in a rest-home. People who’ve had a stroke need a lot of support. It’s pretty frustrating for them when they’ve lost their ability to move or speak like they used to.

“I walk my granddaughter home from school every day. I love it. I wouldn’t want to be robbed of that. I’m so grateful through the quick actions of my son and the hospital staff that day, that I can still do the school run,” says Jack.

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