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U Stroke Center Reaccredited As Advanced Primary Care Stroke Center

SALT LAKE CITY - More than 500 stroke patients were treated at University Health Care's Stroke Center last year, and the expert care they received has been recognized with the center's reaccreditation as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that certifies 15,000 health-care organizations and programs in the United States.  Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization's commitment to meeting performance standards. "Certification is the best signal to the community that the quality a hospital provides is effectively managed to meet the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients," according to the commission,

"University Hospital cared for 518 stroke patients in 2008, and we are committed to offering the highest standard of care for stroke patients," said Elaine J. Skalabrin, M.D., Stroke Center director, a neurologist at the U's Clinical Neurosciences Center, and associate professor of neurology at the U medical school. 

"With a stroke, time lost is brain lost," Skalabrin said. "University Hospital has developed a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients admitted to the emergency department. This includes always being equipped to provide brain-imaging scans, having neurologists available to conduct patient evaluations, and using clot-busting medications when appropriate."

According to Stefan M. Pulst, M.D., professor and chair of the University's Department of Neurology, specialized stroke patient care begins in the emergency department and continues through multiple stages of care. "Certification as a Stroke Center acknowledges that we are a national leader in the implementation of national standards of treatment, not only during the initial diagnosis and acute treatment, but including inpatient care, rehabilitation, and patient education and support," Pulst said.

The U's Stroke Team consists of seven board-certified neurologists and three interventional radiologists who are on call 24/7. Combined with the region's strongest array of imaging and diagnostic tools, the U's "Brain Attack" team is able to respond to stroke cases with unparalleled speed and precision.

The American Hospital Association urges patients to know how well prepared their local hospital is for treatment of stroke patients. Prompt treatment at the onset of symptoms can minimize brain damage and resulting disability from stroke. However, many physicians are not properly trained in stroke treatment and many hospitals do not have neurologists to deal with emergencies around the clock.

According to the American Stroke Association, each year approximately 700,000 people suffer a stroke-500,000 are first attacks and 200,000 are recurrent.  On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, with 4.7 million stroke survivors alive today.  Of stroke survivors, 21 percent of men and 24 percent of women die within a year, and for those aged 65 and older, the percentage is even higher.

As the U.S. population ages, the need for expert stroke care will only increase, according to Skalabrin. This means the University's and other Primary Stroke Centers will have an even more critical role in taking care of those patients.

"The number of acute ischemic stroke patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow in the next decade," she said. "The University Stroke Center's goal is to provide the best care available in the shortest timeline possible."