Stroke victim care improved in New Brunswick says neurologist

A Moncton neurologist says the standard of care for stroke patients has improved dramatically in New Brunswick over the past few years.

Province a leader in providing care for strokes

Dr. Alier Marrero, a neurologist at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, says New Brunswick now has one of the best stroke care programs in the country. (Tori Weldon/CBC)
A Moncton neurologist says the standard of care for stroke patients has improved dramatically in New Brunswick over the past few years.

Dr. Alier Marrero says New Brunswick is a pioneer in stroke care and is now leading the country when it comes to prevention and treatment of strokes.

"We changed the way we care for stroke," said Marrero.

"We established a province-wide tele-stroke system. We have 10 hospitals throughout the province that have this organized system. There is a neurologist on call available 365 days a year, 24 hours."

Marrero and his fellow neurologists can remotely use cameras to observe a patient, view blood test results, and offer treatment. 

"We can even manipulate a camera to zoom in to see a patient's pupil," said Marrero.

The tele-health system and continuous on-call support came hand-in-hand with education and prevention campaigns.

The increased awareness of stroke symptoms among the public, and training paramedics to bring stroke victims to the nearest hospital with the tele-health resources, has decreased the time between a patient's stroke and their first treatment. Marrero says this drastically improves outcomes. 

"Someone who comes in within the first hour of having a stroke, the chances of recovering fully is about 50%," said Marrero. 

Stroke is leading cause of long-term disability in New Brunswick

Marrero says improving the outcomes for stroke victims is important for this province because stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in New Brunswick.

There are several reasons for our province's high rate of stroke, including an aging population, and high rates of hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

"We've also identified there are some areas of our province that have genetic factors, founder effects we call them," said Marrero.

"These are populations that have been here a very long time, French, Scottish, Irish, that carried genes from Europe that would make you more likely to have a stroke, even among young people. So when you find these types of genes in a family, you can also work ahead on prevention. That's why we opened up clinics in places like Bathurst and Campbellton."

Success attracting researchers, doctors

Marrero says we don't have enough neurologists working in the province yet, but the work being done here is attracting the interest of other specialists.

"This is a wonderful place to be," said Marrero.

"Our program is so interesting, it includes teaching, it includes research, so we're attracting more people. Neurology, neuro-sciences as a whole, are in a moment where huge development is happening."

Marrero says the tele-health program, combined with a precision medicine program planned for Moncton, should bring several more neurologists to the province.

"We have become one of the best provinces in Canada in a short period of time," said Marrero. 

With files from Information Morning Moncton