BRISTOL – When a stroke occurs, every second is critical. Any delay in treatment can result in a lifetime of devastating effects.

That’s why Bristol Regional Medical Center has upgraded its services and equipment designated to treat stroke victims, achieving designation as a comprehensive stroke center by the National Stroke Association.

“We’ve been treating stroke victims for quite a while, and we’ve been able to do a lot of good things, particularly in developing pathways and educating our staff,” said Dr. Earl Wilson, one of the new stroke center’s medical directors. “But with the advent of new treatments and new technology, we felt it was time for a new perspective from which to deliver appropriate care. This center springs from that idea.”

The Bristol Regional Stroke Center is the hub of the newly formed Appalachian Regional Stroke Center Network, a partnership of area hospitals designed to deliver high-quality stroke care throughout Southwest Virginia.

“The treatment window for a stroke is only about three hours,” Dr. Wilson said. “Care needs to be delivered in a timely manner, and some patients would simply not be able to make it to this hospital in time. And we obviously can’t ignore those patients.”

Dr. Wilson and Dr. Douglas Williams, the stroke center’s other medical director, contacted several community hospitals in Southwest Virginia, eventually forming the Appalachian Regional Stroke Center Network. Member hospitals have partnered with the Bristol Regional Stroke Center to provide basic stroke diagnosis and treatment.

Members of the Appalachian Regional Stroke Network include Lonesome Pine Hospital, Buchanan General Hospital, Johnston Memorial Hospital, Smyth County Hospital and Norton Community Hospital. Russell County Medical Center is expected to join the network in April.

“More than 80 percent of all stroke cases can be handled at the community hospital,” Dr. Wilson said. “Each hospital will have a stroke team of healthcare providers who have completed an educational course that focuses specifically on the treatment of strokes.

“Patients will be evaluated at their community hospital, and the healthcare providers there will consult us via telephone. A treatment plan will be developed, and care will be administered by the physicians at the community hospitals using the latest and most effective guidelines and pathways.”

The stroke centers in the member hospitals will be equipped to evaluate all cases, Dr. Wilson said. Rare or complicated stroke cases will be treated at the Bristol Regional Stroke Center.


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