By Matthew Smith, MD

Not long ago, if you were having stroke-like symptoms, you would go to your local emergency department. Unless you lived close to a major medical center in West Virginia, the hospital would most likely be without a neurologist, and you would be transferred to the nearest stroke center for evaluation – maybe hours away.


When a person is having a stroke, the clock starts ticking because there’s a limited amount of time to get effective treatment. This tight window of time makes a stroke one of the leading causes of disability and death. A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off by a blood clot, and brain cells begin to die from a lack of oxygen. Abilities, like memory and muscle control, are in danger.

Now, if you come to the emergency room in hospitals around West Virginia and western Maryland, you may not need to be immediately transferred elsewhere for an evaluation. Through WVU Medicine Telestroke, you may see me or another neurologist through a computer screen at your bedside to help examine, diagnose, and treat your stroke symptoms.

Telestroke provides expert neurological evaluation of patients with stroke-like symptoms in a hospital’s emergency department via a computer and web camera. This on-demand expertise helps rural hospitals quickly evaluate and treat potential stroke patients, and you don’t lose precious time until the administration of critical therapy.

Because cells deprived of blood are dying at a rapid rate, the sooner you receive treatment the better your chances of recovery are. The only FDA approved treatment for ischemic strokes is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) given through an IV in the arm, and it is limited to within three hours from the onset of a stroke. Only a subset of stroke patients can receive tPA within four and a half hours after stroke symptoms begin. Some patients with strokes where a large vessel is blocked may need to have a special procedure in which a physician removes the clot with a catheter.

With telestroke, WVU Medicine neurologists are able to assist ED staff at local hospitals and provide a better outcome for stroke patients. Our goal is to continue to increase our telestroke partnerships with local hospitals and provide rapid stroke expertise to all West Virginians.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE