Introduction of portable computed tomography scanners, in the treatment of acute stroke patients via telemedicine in remote communities

Int J Stroke. 2010 Apr;5(2):62-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2010.00408.x.


Background: Thrombolysis is an established treatment in selected patients who present early to hospital after symptoms of acute ischaemic stroke. Treatment can only be offered after the patient has been assessed by highly trained physicians and imaging studies have ruled out a brain haemorrhage. This limits the wider availability of thrombolysis to patients in remote communities, especially in countries with limited resources. There has been considerable success with the use of TeleStroke to overcome such barriers. TeleStroke is feasible in remote hospitals provided there is an available computed tomography scanner, a fundamental prerequisite in the assessment of acute stroke and thrombolysis. This is a luxury not widely available, especially in remote sites. Recently, Neurologica introduced a portable computed tomography scanner that can be operated after minimal training.

Methods: We report our preliminary experience with the portable computed tomography scanner in a remote community where Telemedicine was successfully used to evaluate and treat patients presenting with symptoms suggestive of an acute ischaemic stroke. The University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, Canada was the 'hub' site and Wainwright Community Hospital was the 'spoke' site.

Results: Over a 3-month period, 18 patients were evaluated in the emergency department of the remote hospital where the referring physician felt that symptoms indicated potential for thrombolysis. All patients were evaluated remotely by a stroke neurologist in a TeleStroke service situated 207 km from the rural site. After clinical examination, cranial computed tomography scans were obtained with the portable scanner and evaluated by the stroke neurologist. In three patients, thrombolysis was not offered because the computed tomography showed evidence of brain haemorrhage: two intracerebral haemorrhage and one subarachnoid haemorrhage. Three patients meeting the standard criteria received thrombolysis within 4.5 h from onset of symptoms. There was a significant improvement in two patients. One patient did not make a good recovery. Repeat computed tomography scans showed a small haemorrhagic transformation in one patient. In the remaining 12 subjects, symptoms improved rapidly, were outside the window for thrombolysis, or were not consistent with an acute ischaemic stroke.

Interpretations: Our preliminary study shows that the portable scanner can be used successfully in the evaluation of patients in remote regions that are not within timely reach of stroke experts or do not have available conventional imaging with computed tomography scans. Telemedicine, in combination with the use of portable scanners, offers hope to a large remote population base that would otherwise not have access to appropriate acute stroke treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alberta
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroke / diagnostic imaging*
  • Stroke / drug therapy
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator