CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Novant Health is utilizing new technology to help physicians detect and treat a specific type of stroke faster. By cutting down the time to diagnose the stroke, they hope to see patients make better recoveries.
The technology is called Viz.AI. It can help physicians detect when a person has a large vessel occlusion, which is a type of Acute Ischemic stroke. According to Neurointensivist Dr. Laurie McWilliams, it’s one of the most common strokes they treat. She says an LVO is when a blood clot is blocking the blood flow in a large vessel that goes to your brain.
The benefit to having this type of stroke is that the blood clot can be removed. However, Dr. McWilliams says there is a specific window of time when this procedure can be done.
“The patient has to present within a certain time frame. If a patient shows with acute signs and symptoms of stroke but it’s too late, that blood clot has already caused irreversible damage to the brain,” Dr. Williams said.
The earlier an LVO is detected, the better. Dr. McWilliams says every minute there is no blood or oxygen to the brain, about 2 million brain cells die.
“Time is of the essence,” Dr. McWilliams said.
Prior to using Viz.AI, McWilliams says it could take roughly 30 minutes to narrow down a patient’s diagnosis to an LVO and get them into surgery to remove the clot. When the patient arrives at an Emergency Room with stroke-like symptoms, two types of CT scans are ordered, clot-busting medication is given and communication between the ER, neurologist, and interventionalist must occur before a patient is taken to surgery to remove the blood clot.
Now that Viz.Ai has been implemented in all Novant Health Emergency Rooms; it’s diagnosed much faster.
“That can save probably 20 minutes,” Dr. McWilliams said.
She says when a CT Scan is ordered, the results now get sent directly to all physician’s smart phones. No longer must they log onto a computer and view the CT Scans from a device that is equipped with the imaging technology. The results are sent straight to the physician’s phone in real time. Since all providers are getting the results simultaneously, steps to brief other physicians on the results are now bypassed. Each physician gets the results and patient information at the same time.
Viz.AI also alerts the physicians to CT Scans that may represent an LVO. According to McWilliams, the technology knows what a normal amount of blood flow into the brain should look like and what is abnormal.
“The artificial intelligence can detect a change in that blood flow, and it can send off an alarm,” McWilliams says.
When the CT scans download to the physician’s phone, an alarm also sounds that Viz.AI detects a suspected LVO. Physicians can then verify the findings and get the patient into surgery quicker to remove the blood clot.
Novant Health has been using the technology for a couple of months and they believe it has already helped save a woman who had an LVO. According to McWilliams, Viz.AI detected the woman’s LVO and alerted physicians through the phone.
“In that particular case, if we did not have Viz.AI that patient could have been left not being able to communicate or use their right arm,” Dr. McWilliams said.
About 800 stroke patients are treated at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center each year. According to the CDC, South Carolina ranks fourth in the country for deaths by stroke. North Carolina ranks 10th in the country for deaths by stroke, according to the CDC’s 2017 findings.