LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 12, 2005) -- Demonstrating its ability to meet the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients, University of Kentucky Hospital is the first health care facility in Central and Eastern Kentucky to obtain distinction as a Primary Stroke Center.
This important distinction comes from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a national accrediting body.
Stroke is the third most common cause of death in Kentucky and should be regarded as a brain attack, a medical emergency that is as serious as a heart attack. To be effective, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of acute non-bleeding stroke, must be given no more than three hours after stroke symptoms begin.
As a Primary Stroke Center, UK Hospital has specially trained doctors and support staff on hand for tPA administration 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This dedicated team includes stroke neurologists and emergency medicine physicians, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, nurses, laboratory personnel, and CT technologists.
“A key element in our successful quest to become a Primary Stroke Center was the opening of the hospital’s Stroke Intermediate Care Unit this past November,” said Dr. Creed Pettigrew, professor of neurology in the UK College of Medicine and director of UK’s Stroke Program. “This 12-bed facility is equipped and staffed to provide superior care of patients with acute stroke, as required by the Primary Stroke Center performance measures.”
The stroke unit consists of a core of specially trained nurses who provide care and monitoring of patients who have had a stroke.
“Our nurses serve as sentinels for a disease that changes quickly,” said Annette Andreoli, UK Stroke Unit patient care manager. “UK stroke nurses are accustomed to recognize complications and are trained on the National Institutes of Health stroke scale, allowing them to communicate with physicians about the patients they are treating.”
UK is improving outcomes for stroke patients through its multidisciplinary approach, part of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. UK’s stroke specialists stay on the cutting edge of new and improved stroke treatment through research endeavors, including investigation of clot-busting drugs.
UK’s stroke care services include a 24-hour, in-patient pharmacy and laboratory; in-house X-ray technologists operating a CT scanner in the emergency department that can quickly identify bleeding strokes; in-house neurosurgical consultation; tPA kit with treatment protocols in the emergency department; a helicopter transport service within a 150-mile radius of the hospital; and specialized magnetic resonance scanners that can detect a stroke in the brain after no more than one hour of symptoms and can show changes in brain blood flow.
“With current technology and treatments, time is the factor that counts the most when having a stroke,” said Dr. Anand Vaishnav, assistant professor of neurology and medical director of the UK Hospital Stroke Unit. “A patient can only be given tPA within a short, three-hour time frame. Many patients do not seek treatment in time to receive the drug.”
Pettigrew also said that it is important to recognize the warning signs of stroke and seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Stroke symptoms include abrupt loss of vision in one eye; weakness, numbness or heaviness affecting the arm and leg on one side of the body; or a severe headache followed by sleepiness.
Kentucky stroke mortality rates have exceeded the national average from 1979 through 2001 and are the 12th highest in the United States.
Seniors are not the only people at risk for stroke. Of the nearly 600 patients admitted to UK Hospital for stroke each year, 25 percent are under the age of 55.
For more information about the UK HealthCare Stroke Program’s multidisciplinary approach for treating stroke, call (859) 257-1000 locally or toll free at (800) 333-8874.