Once a stroke has begun, it is too late to make sure your hospital has the best facilities to help you. So do your research now to find the best hospitals in the area for stroke care, and inform your close family and your doctor so they know where you want to go if you were to experience a stroke. If you are older and/or have high-risk factors for stroke, knowing your medical care options before an emergency occurs is key.
Finding the best stroke hospitals
Some hospitals are certified as Primary Stroke Centers (PSC) or Acute Stroke-Ready Hospitals (ASRH). These hospitals have stroke teams and neurologists available 24/7 in order to provide rapid assessment, head CT scans, and administration of IV thrombolytic therapy. A PSC has designated stroke beds and the ability to provide ongoing IV thrombolytic care. An ASRH does not have the resources to provide this ongoing care; therefore, they will transfer a patient to a PSC once thrombolysis has been administered.
Thrombolysis, or thrombolytic therapy, is a treatment that dissolves blood clots in order to improve blood flow and limit damage from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Thrombolysis is an important treatment in ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots and account for 80% of all strokes. The most effective thrombolytic is tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). Studies have found that, if administered within three hours of the onset of a stroke, tPA can dramatically decrease the impact of a stroke on the brain.
At these stroke centers, and at other hospitals that have made a conscious effort to be as stroke-ready as possible, a collaboration between the stroke team, neurology, and cardiology provides coordinated care critical to successful treatment. Surgery is sometimes necessary in order to break up clots or stop hemorrhaging. These doctors need to be prepared 24/7 in order to save lives and limit disability from stroke.
These hospitals will also have very robust therapy teams, prepared to offer physical therapy, swallow therapy, and other important interventions within hours of stabilizing the patient. The sooner these therapies are started, the sooner the plasticity of the brain can kick in and begin to relearn any lost skills.
What to ask your local hospital
If your hospital is not a PSC or ASRH, arrange a meeting to discuss the protocols they implement when a person is brought in for a possible stroke. They should have a clearly defined plan to quickly assess, perform brain scans on, and transfer a patient to another hospital with more stroke care resources. These protocols must be available 24/7. If you are not comfortable with their preparedness, find another hospital that provides better care.
And every hospital, whether it is a specialized stroke hospital or a regular acute care hospital, should have a means of monitoring admitted patients for stroke onset. Up to 17% of all strokes happen to patients in the hospital for another reason, and yet studies indicate that 50% of in-hospital strokes go undetected for 4.5 hours. The very best thrombolytic, tPA, is only effective within the first three hours. In-hospital strokes have significantly higher morbidity and disability rates than strokes that occur outside the hospital.
Ask your hospital what they are doing to monitor their patients for strokes, especially after surgery. Neuralert Technologies is committed to ending the devastation caused by in-hospital strokes with its innovative stroke detection monitor, combining a unique, non-invasive wristband technology with a state-of-the-art patented algorithm developed by the University of Pennsylvania to detect asymmetry in arm movement, one of the initial indications of stroke onset. Neuralert has been shown in studies to detect 80% of ischemic strokes in less than one hour, with a false-alarm rate of almost zero.
Neuralert can also be utilized outside of a hospital setting as part of a stroke-prevention plan. Ask your hospital and your doctor about using Neuralert to provide rapid stroke detection for the fastest-possible response time.