Strong Stroke Center Receives NYS Designation

September 09, 2005

"This designation reinforces the critical processes that are vital to reducing the potential devastating consequences from stroke: immediately getting to a hospital at the onset of symptoms, where a seasoned team is in place with ready access to imaging and other technologies proven to reduce the severity of the stroke and its potential side effects."

It all came down to luck, as far as Eileen Hellems is concerned. The spry and active 78-year-old Henrietta resident was entertaining company when she suddenly stopped talking and her lip drooped—classic symptoms of a stroke. 

Her friends quickly called an ambulance, and she was immediately taken to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Stroke Center, where the waiting stroke team confirmed her diagnosis, and administered clot-busting TPA. Today, barely three months after her stroke, Hellems has no side effects, and counts herself as one of the few who have fully recovered from an ailment that is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death.

“I don’t remember any of it, so if I were alone, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” Hellems said. “I was lucky that friends were with me when it occurred, who quickly got me to a top-notch stroke center where I was immediately diagnosed and treated.”

New York State’s Department of Health is trying to lessen the amount of “luck” a person needs to successfully recover from a stroke by creating a statewide system of designated stroke centers to improve the standard and timely access to care for stroke patients. The Strong Stroke Center at Strong Memorial Hospital recently was designated as such a stroke center. As part of the designation, any stroke patient within 20 minutes of transport to Strong Memorial will automatically be brought the Strong Stroke Center.

New York State’s stroke designation program is similar to its program for burn and trauma centers, and currently, only the states of New York and Massachusetts have a state designation process for primary stroke centers.  In order to receive the designation, hospitals must have a staff specifically dedicated to treating stroke patients (including rehab), and round-the-clock capacity to perform CT scans. Patients must be seen by a physician within 15 minutes of arriving in the emergency room, have imaging within 25 minutes of arrival and interpretation within 45 minutes of arrival. In addition, rapid lab tests and a standardized written protocol for TPA administration is required.

“This designation reinforces the critical processes that are vital to reducing the potential devastating consequences from stroke: immediately getting to a hospital at the onset of symptoms, where a seasoned team is in place with ready access to imaging and other technologies proven to reduce the severity of the stroke and its potential side effects,” Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Strong Stroke Center, said. “We are honored to have received this designation from New York State, and look forward to continuing providing the quality care that we know helps save lives and prevent disability among stroke patients.”

The Strong Stroke Center is the fourth largest in New York State, caring for close to 500 patients annually. Four board-certified vascular neurologists, backed up by more than a dozen other neurologists, provide 24 hour, in-house coverage, ensuring the ability to deliver time-sensitive care, such as administering clot-busting TPA drugs to patients within three hours of stroke symptoms.  In addition, a multi-disciplinary team provides follow-up care through a specialized inpatient unit and rehabilitation facility.

About Stroke

A stroke is an interruption of blood supply to the brain due to a clot or leakage of a blood vessel into the brain. About 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds.  Stroke kills nearly 163,000 people a year, making it the third leading cause of death behind diseases of the heart and cancer.

Current treatment for strokes include clot busting TPA, which must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, according to the American Stroke Association, less than 5 percent of those who suffer a stroke reach the hospital in time to be considered for this treatment. By designating selected hospitals as primary stroke centers, the hope is to significantly increase the number of patients getting to experienced medical centers where TPA can be administered promptly. (See tips below on how to recognize a stroke.)

Swift treatment could greatly impact patient outcomes saving the patient from substantial disability and even death. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S. Fifty percent of stroke victims will have some type of one-sided paralysis. Thirty percent are unable to walk without some assistance.

How to Recognize a Stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

(Source: Brain Attack Coalition: http://www.stroke-site.org/coalition/stroke_symptoms.html)

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Germaine Reinhardt
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