A research coordinator was on the ninth floor of Regions Hospital when the stroke code lit up her pager around 2 p.m. She immediately went down to meet the incoming patient.
The 70-year-old man’s left side was completely paralyzed, except for a faint sensation in the tips of his fingers. He knew exactly what was going on. He had a stroke two years earlier, and now he was terrified that he’d never regain the full use of his body.
But Regions Hospital is a Comprehensive Stroke Center, which means they have the staffing, resources and expertise to treat even the most complex stroke cases. In addition, Regions works closely with the HealthPartners Institute to advance patient care through leading-edge research.
Stroke care meets stroke research
After discussing his status with his care teams, the researcher determined the patient was eligible for a recently opened clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health StrokeNet. During a momentary lull between clinicians’ stroke assessment questions, she entered his room to ask if he’d participate in research that may improve the way stroke is treated.
It’s a clinical research coordinator’s job to find candidates for research and explain what research teams expect to learn through their studies. Helping the patient understand the study and confirming their wish to participate are critical steps. Several research coordinators and research interns work in Regions’ emergency department and are on-call 24/7.
They’re constantly looking for opportunities to enroll patients in the types of trials that lead to improvements in modern medicine. This type of research is supported by HealthPartners Institute and is a rare service in a community hospital like Regions.
There’s already a culture of providing exceptional care at Regions and teams are looking for ways to make patient experiences and outcomes the best possible. Research is an extension of that culture – we’re figuring out how to improve treatments and get better results for our patients.
The study: Medications to amplify tissue plasminogen activator
In the case of this stroke patient, the research and care teams were starting to explore whether one of two drugs could amplify the clot-busting potential of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the standard intervention for treating stroke.
Regions is one of several sites nationwide that’s recruiting patients to take part in this new treatment. Under the leadership of Haitham Hussein, MD – one of our neurologists and HealthPartners Institute investigators – the team will help recruit patients over the next three to five years. Nationally, the goal is to enroll 1,200 people.
After talking with the research coordinator, the patient was onboard for the trial, hoping it would help improve his treatment outcome. He also hoped that his actions might help other stroke patients in the future.
Driving the best possible patient outcome when “time is brain”
The first minutes and hours after stroke symptoms begin are precious. That’s because time is brain, as stroke experts say. The longer the brain is deprived of blood flow, the more brain cells die. So the more quickly treatment can begin, the better the outcome.
In just 90 minutes the patient went through three different departments, joined a clinical trial, and was treated and recovering in the intensive care unit. Two days later, he walked out of the hospital.
When seconds matter, this is how you do research.