Medical first as patient treated remotely


A STROKE patient received urgent and potentially life-saving treatment in Mullingar on Sunday after a consultant at another hospital used a robotic device to assess her remotely and prescribe clot-busting medication.

The Remote Presence (RP-7) device allows stroke specialists to examine patients from a remote location and contribute to urgent treatment decisions.

The patient, who had a stroke just after noon, was collected by ambulance and was at the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar by 1.30pm. She was assessed by Prof Des O’Neill at Tallaght Hospital using the RP-7, which also allowed him to talk with her, examine her scans and discuss treatment with members of the medical team in Mullingar. The patient was on clot-busting medication by 2.40pm and her condition improved in half an hour.

The time window is short for putting suitable patients on potentially life-saving thrombolytic drugs, says Prof O’Neill. “The key challenge is to get people to have their clot-busting drug within three hours of a stroke.”

Sunday’s assessment was the first time in Ireland telemedicine was used to facilitate a stroke patient receiving thrombolysis, says Prof Seán Murphy, who directs stroke services at Mullingar.

A six-month pilot scheme has just started to use telemedicine for urgent stroke assessment between Mullingar, Tallaght and Naas General hospitals. Specialists are rostered so that an expert is always available at one of the sites, says Prof Murphy. “It means if a patient comes in after hours to any of the three hospitals, we can ensure they get rapid access to expertise.”