MEDICAL experts from the North East are piloting a new tool to ensure stroke patients get the best treatment.
Having developed the FAST acronym – face, arms, speech and time – which has been seen on national TV adverts, the Newcastle University and NHS team are now trying out an app for use on smartphones or tablets.
The iPad app, called DASH II, aims to help people who have had a stroke and their medical team work out which course of treatment is most suitable for them.
The app is being trialled in Newcastle and North Tyneside hospitals to help weigh up the risks and benefits of different treatments for people who have had an ischaemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot on the brain.
Its potential benefits have caught the attention of the national NHS after the researchers were nominated by a public vote as one of the top 50 uses of technology.
The app will be demonstrated to the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley at the Maps and Apps Showcase in London tomorrow.
From the moment people suffer a stroke, medics only have a four and a half-hour window to treat them with clot-busting drugs.
This means doctors, nurses, the patient and their families need to have a clear idea of the treatment options so they can quickly make an informed decision.
Newcastle University’s Professor Gary Ford is a stroke specialist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, part of the Newcastle NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust.
He said “Every minute counts. We know that the earlier we give clot busting drugs after stroke the more likely the patient will make a full recovery and return home. There is a small risk of bleeding with the drugs and it is important we support patients to make the best decision for them about whether to have treatment.
“Patients and their families are often very distressed immediately after a stroke and we need to do anything we can to help them make the best decision.”
People who have had a stroke in the brain caused by a blood clot can be offered a blood thinning drug treatment known as a thrombolysis.
However, the effectiveness of the treatment depends on several factors including the age, weight, severity of stroke and blood pressure of the patient and it carries a risk of a bleed in the site of the clot which could worsen the stroke. When this information is put into the app it provides a visual interpretation of the risks and benefits for the patient which are displayed as a coloured pictograph, bar chart or flow diagram.
This aims to help the medical team explain the predicted likelihood of recovery, moderate or severe disability, or death with or without thrombolysis.
Professor Richard Thomson, professor of epidemiology and public health at Newcastle University, said: “Patients and their families helped us to develop how we present the outcomes of treatment and have told us they feel it helps explain the options to enable them to come to a decision. We are also hearing it provides medical teams with more information quickly, and aids their discussions in explaining the benefits and risks clearly to patients and their families.”