Colorado hospitals save time and lives by changing how they treat strokes

By using a treatment that's usually used on hearts, nurses say they've been able to shave minutes in stroke treatment.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:06 PM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Hospitals across Colorado are changing the way they treat strokes by using a treatment typically used in hearts.

UCHealth made the switch in December. Since then, they said they have already seen results.

The treatment in question replaces the use of a drug called Alteplase, or tPA. This has been the standard drug of use for 30 years for hospitals across the nation; however, recent research has shown promising results for Tenecteplase, or TNK.

TNK will be used in place of tPA in treatments of ischemic strokes, or blood clots in the brain. This is one of two types of strokes (the other being hemorrhages, or brain bleeds) and is the most common, with clots making up over 80% of strokes, according to UCHealth. TNK is typically used in treating clots in the heart, but UCHealth said new research has shows promising results in the brain.

The primary reason for making the switch, they said, is how much faster TNK works.

“Time is of the essence,” said David Ornelas, a nurse and manager for the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit, “any second that we can shave off of not only assessing a diagnosis but treating the stroke is going to have big dividends for that patient when we start looking at outcomes.”

When a person has a stroke, their brain cells can die at a rate of 2 million per minute, according to UCHealth. That’s why they work to shave off all the time they can when it comes to treating the stroke.

They said tPA requires being administered multiple times over a certain period of time, which allows for a greater margin of error. TNK, however, only needs to be administered once before it starts working. They also said it works quicker.

“We’ve been able to save six minutes off our administration time, so it’s been very, very big,” said Ornelas.

That’s 12 million brain cells saved. Ornelas said those six minutes are the difference between walking out of the hospital and being wheeled out.

He added that it’s important for everyone to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that they can get help quickly. For this, they use the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.

Those signs are:

B- Balance/difficulty standing or walking

E- Sudden changes in eyesight, such as loss of vision or double cision

F- Facial drooping

A- Arm weakness

S- Speech difficulty

T- Time to call 911

UCHealth has more resources, which can be found here.