AR SAVES, UAMS Physicians Help 500th Stroke Patient Through Statewide Network

By Ben Boulden

AR SAVES (Arkansas Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support) 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 the clot busting drug t-PA within the critical 3-hour period following the first signs of stroke.

Before Martinez had his stroke on a Monday morning last November, the 29-year-old husband and father of two had experienced a weekend of painful headaches. Martinez, a heavy-equipment operator, was on his way to the Conway construction company where he works. His vision was spotty, and he remembers being confused at a stoplight before realizing it was green and proceeding on through an intersection. Just as he was reaching with his right hand for a cigarette, he believes his hand went numb and limp, falling from the wheel. His memory of the truck he was driving running off the road isn’t clear.

Paramedics rushed him first to Conway Regional Medical Center, one of 41 AR SAVES sites at hospitals statewide. Along with his wife, he took part in a medical consultation via a AR SAVES video teleconference with Margaret Tremwel, M.D., at Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith. She recommended he receive t-PA and transportation by helicopter to UAMS Medical Center for additional care.

Before his stroke, Martinez had high blood pressure, which may have been a factor in creating a tear in his carotid artery. A blood clot coming loose from the tear and entering his brain is a likely cause of the stroke.

Martinez spent the next four nights at UAMS and by the time he was released he had regained his ability to walk. Although he has some remaining numbness in his left hand, he has no other functional deficits and by Jan. 13 had returned to work.

Martinez said if he ever has another stroke and he can communicate, then he would tell paramedics to get him to an AR SAVES hospital.

“I haven’t had a cigarette since that day,” he said. “I’ve also changed my diet for the better.”

At UAMS, neurologist Archana Hinduja, M.D., and interventional radiologist Eren Erdem, M.D., oversaw his treatment and care.

The AR 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 and 41 other Arkansas hospitals.

“Although UAMS and AR SAVES have many stories like his, Dustin Martinez’s story is a great illustration of a core part of the UAMS mission — reaching out to other areas of the state to improve patient outcomes while helping local physicians identify patients with stroke. The state of Arkansas is amazing in that we can all work together to improve health care for all Arkansans,” said Michael Manley, outreach director for the UAMS Center for Distance Health and director of AR SAVES.

Stroke patients are at high risk of death or permanent disability, but certain patients can be helped with t-PA if given within 3 hours of the stroke.

Arkansas, which ranks first in the nation in stroke death rates, had 1,560 stroke-related deaths in 2011, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since the program began Nov. 1, 2008, more than 2,038 patients have received stroke consults through AR SAVES.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.