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Caring for stroke patients: The imaging team

By The Health News Team | May 23, 2023
Members of the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Imaging Team

Members of the Sharp Grossmont Imaging Team play a critical role in caring for patients experiencing stroke symptoms.

It may surprise you to learn the X-ray, a tool used in health care settings around the world, was accidentally discovered.

In 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was testing whether an electric current could pass through a glass tube filled with gas and covered in black cardboard. He noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated plate and later found the new rays — which he named X-rays — could pass through other substances, including the body, to create florescent images on the plates.

Fast forward more than 125 years, and X-ray technology now plays a key role in medical care, helping to detect bone fractures, tumors, blood vessel blockages and more.

How X-rays are used in stroke care

X-rays are an invaluable tool when treating patients having a stroke. When time is of the essence, members of Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s Imaging Team members use special X-ray equipment to better understand how to provide appropriate — and often lifesaving — treatment.

Rosie Dieu, one of 24 imaging specialists, has been with Sharp Grossmont Hospital since 2005. She began as an X-ray technician and later cross-trained in computed tomography, also referred to as CT.

A CT scan uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to generate images of the inside of the body. It is used to diagnose disease or injury, as well as to plan medical treatment.

When a patient with stroke symptoms arrives at the hospital, these scans are vital in detecting if the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. A stroke occurs when blood supply is blocked to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, which can result in brain tissue not receiving oxygen.

When a patient is having a stroke, every moment counts. The Sharp Grossmont Hospital Imaging Team members ensure every patient receives the precise care they need by identifying stroke using advanced imaging technology.

An imaging specialist’s varied roles

Like all imaging specialists on the team, Dieu’s tasks vary each day. When assigned to be the day’s coordinator, Dieu is alerted by phone when a stroke patient needs immediate attention. She heads directly to the department in the hospital where the patient is located.

If a stroke is announced by an overhead alert in the hospital, Dieu receives an automated call and works with the team to determine which room the patient will be placed in. In both scenarios, Dieu then listens carefully to what each patient’s stroke symptoms are and within minutes, works with the doctor to determine which scans are needed.

Scans may include a non-contrast head CT to detect severe hemorrhaging in the brain as well as a head and neck perfusion CT scan, which shows the parts of the brain still receiving blood. Dieu then coordinates with the radiologist to confirm the patient’s stroke symptoms.

If assigned the role of scanning technologist, Dieu’s day looks a bit different. When a stroke is called, the day’s coordinator determines which room the patient will be placed in. It is then Dieu’s responsibility to prepare the room for the CT scan, set up the table for a head scan and prepare the intravenous (IV) kit. When the patient arrives in her care, Dieu performs the scans and sends the images to the radiologist for interpretation.

“It’s critical that we are focused on the scanning,” Dieu says. “There's a lot of talking between team members about the patient and their condition while I scan, so I need to always remain focused on my task at hand, even when there is a lot happening around me.”

Providing lifesaving care as a team

According to Dieu, one of her most memorable patient experiences was when she cared for a stroke patient with severe left-sided weakness and facial droop. After scans were performed, it was determined the patient would receive medication to break up a clot that was causing a blockage.

“Immediately, we saw results,” Dieu recalls. “The patient was speaking better and their ability to move improved. It is always so amazing to witness how the care we provide positively impacts a patient's future.”

With the lifesaving work the Imaging Department conducts every day, it’s no surprise this group formed a bond that allows them to not only function well as a team in the hospital but also as friends outside of work. “The CT crew is like family,” Dieu says. “We all get along so well and know we have each other’s back.”

Learn more about the dedicated stroke teams at Sharp Grossmont, including the progressive care unit, case managers and social workers and the rapid response team; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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