Blytheville Hospital Joins UAMS-Led Stroke Program

By David Robinson

Called Arkansas SAVES (Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support), the program uses a high-speed video communications system to help provide immediate, life-saving treatments to stroke patients 24 hours a day. The real-time video communication enables a stroke neurologist to evaluate whether emergency room physicians should use a powerful blood thinner within the critical 4.5-hour period following the first signs of stroke.

The SAVES program is a partnership between the UAMS Center for Distance Health, the state Department of Human Services, Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith, Great River Medical Center – Blytheville and 20 other Arkansas hospitals.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to enhance the high level of quality care that residents in our region can find at Great River Medical Center – Blytheville,” said Chris Raymer, chief operating officer at Great River Medical Center. “We’re committed to helping reduce the number of deaths and disabilities in Arkansas caused by stroke each year, and we are excited to be a part of this important initiative.”

“This is an important part of UAMS’ mission – reaching out to other areas of the state and helping local physicians identify patients with stroke and improve the patients’ outcomes,” said UAMS’ Salah Keyrouz, M.D., a stroke neurologist and neurointensivist and the Arkansas SAVES medical director.

Arkansas, which leads the nation in stroke death rates, had 1,873 stroke-related deaths in 2007, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nationwide direct and indirect cost of medical and institutional care of permanently disabled stroke victims was $62.7 billion in 2007, according to the American Heart Association’s 2010 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.

“The Arkansas SAVES program will save lives and money because if stroke patients get the treatment they need within 4.5 hours, they have a much greater chance of living without a major, costly disability,” said Julie Hall-Barrow, Ed.D., education director for the UAMS Center for Distance Health and program director for Arkansas SAVES.

Keyrouz said it’s important the public be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, such as sudden weakness, numbness, unsteady gait, and visual and speech problems.

Stroke patients are at high risk of death or permanent disability, but certain patients can be helped with the blood-clot dissolving agent tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) if given within 4.5 hours of the stroke.

The Arkansas SAVES system relies on the state Health Department’s hospital preparedness high-speed video network transmission lines that provide the live video communication.

Since the program began Nov. 1, 2008, more than 350 patients have received stroke consults through SAVES and more than 80 patients have received t-PA.

Twenty other Arkansas hospitals are participating in the SAVES program: Baptist Health Medical Center – Arkadelphia, White River Medical Center in Batesville, Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home, Booneville Community Hospital, DeWitt Hospital, Johnson Regional Medical Center in Clarksville, McGehee-Desha County Hospital, Mena Regional Health System, Helena Regional Medical Center, Saint Vincent Medical Center/North in North Little Rock, White County Medical Center in Searcy, Ashley County Medical Center in Crossett, Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould, Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis, Ozark Health Medical Center in Clinton, Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville and Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center – Russellville and Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville.

The SAVES program will continue adding hospitals across Arkansas in the coming months, said Curtis Lowery, M.D., director of the UAMS Center for Distance Health.

In addition to Keyrouz, the team of stroke neurologists includes: Margaret Tremwel, M.D., at Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith; UAMS’ Sami I. Harik, M.D., and Archana Hinduja, M.D.; and Vladimir Karpitskiy, M.D., Ph.D., adjunct faculty in the UAMS College of Medicine.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or