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Dedicated Care: Vital Services for Stroke Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation

Residents of the San Gabriel Valley now have access to an important new medical service that will aid in the prevention, treatment and recovery from stroke. This spring Huntington Memorial Hospital opened a 10-bed stroke unit that is the first step in the hospital’s quest to become the area’s only accredited primary stroke center.

Each year more than 750,000 Americans suffer a stroke; yet despite signs that the incidence of stroke is increasing, dedicated stroke units are a rarity in communities across America. In Los Angeles County, for example, there are currently only five primary stroke care centers accredited by the Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare.

“Huntington sees approximately 500 stroke patients each year, and that number is growing,” said Elizabeth Mullikin, executive director of the neuroscience service line. “It is vital that we develop a dedicated facility that allows patients to receive the specialized care they need to overcome the serious consequences of cerebrovascular disease and the potential disability caused by stroke.”

As part of the planning to become an accredited stroke center, Huntington’s neurosciences service line has recruited specialized health professionals and established specialty treatment and care capabilities. Huntington’s dedicated stroke team consists of physicians from neurology, neuroradiology, neurosurgery, specially trained emergency room doctors and specially trained nursing staff.

The hospital will be utilizing state-of-the-art treatments, including tPA, a clot-busting drug that can only be administered within three hours of a stroke, as well as the two leading mechanical clot-retrieval devices available today, the Penumbra and the Merci Clot Retrieval. Huntington also offers neurosurgical intervention in cases of hemorrhagic stroke.

All of these treatments expand the window of opportunity for clinical intervention and effective treatment of strokes in patients who may otherwise be seriously disabled or suffer death.

In addition to its stroke treatment capabilities, the Huntington stroke unit will put in place protocols for prevention of secondary stroke. Forty percent of patients who have had a stroke will suffer a subsequent stroke within five years. The risk for recurring stroke is highest within the first few weeks and months of the previous stroke. The risk is about 14 percent in the first year and about 5 percent thereafter, so preventive measures must be instituted as soon as possible. The risk of secondary stroke may be reduced with medications, a healthy diet, control of high blood pressure, regular exercise, and by avoiding or quitting smoking.

Championed by Dr.Arbi Ohanian and nursing administration, the Huntington stroke center is scheduled to undergo certification proceedings with the Joint Commission in October 2009.