Feb. 1, 2017

Accelerating transport for stroke patients

When someone suffers a stroke, any delay getting them to treatment can be catastrophic. A UCalgary engineering student has created a model to help paramedics decide quickly where to transport stroke patients.

As time ticks to the point where a stroke patient faces crucial treatment, every second counts. A new University of Calgary study aimed at getting patients to the right treatment centre as fast as possible is critical.

UCalgary Schulich School of Engineering biomedical engineering student Matthew Milne, 20, has written computer code, crunched numbers, examined Google maps and developed statistical models with team members to try and improve the system that gets stroke patients transported to vital treatment centres.

The study is expected to be published in the journal Stroke in 2017 and could help to streamline processes that include medical transport.

“We have created probability models that consider ambulance and travel time as significant factors,” said Milne. “The longer it takes to get to treatment, the lower the probability of a good outcome for a patient. We consulted various people to ensure that the work I was doing represented real life to the best of our abilities.”

In Alberta, there are two types of hospitals – comprehensive stroke centres (CSCs) in major cities and primary stroke centres (PSCs).

The PSC’s can provide some treatments but not all. When transporting stroke patients, paramedics must determine whether they should transport them to a PSC first for minor treatment, or instead drive straight to the CSC, even though it will take longer.

Milne and the study team have generated colour-coded maps of Alberta and some other provinces including Ontario to show paramedics which decision is optimal based on the location of the patient. As such, the study could lead to a decision support tool in endovascular transport.

Milne’s interest in medicine and using his academic skills to improve the lives of others is rooted in a family tradition.

“A lot of my family were doctors and my entire life the importance of helping other people if you have the chance was emphasized heavily,” he said. “I may not be the best at things like needles and surgery, but I want to help improve people’s lives. I want to ensure they can live a full and happy life after a stroke.”

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Matthew Milne has worked with the following University of Calgary researchers and experts on the project: Noreen Kamal, adjunct assistant professor, and Dr. Michael Hill, professor, at the Cumming School of Medicine; Anders Nygren, associate professor and associate dean – academic and planning at the Schulich School of Engineering; doctoral student Jessalyn Holodinsky; Chao Qiu, instructor, Faculty of Science;  Lauren Brown, postdoctoral fellow; and Patrice Lindsay, director of stroke, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. 


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