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July 18, 2006 > New Center Helps Prevent Devastating Effects of Stroke

New Center Helps Prevent Devastating Effects of Stroke

by Washington Hospital

As the third leading cause of death in the U.S., strokes are a major concern for all Americans. The American Stroke Association reports that, each year in the U.S., 700,000 strokes occur. After a first stroke, one in four people dies. Yet, these grim statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. Among the greatest tragedies about stroke is the damage it can do to the health and well being of people and families long after it first occurs.

Stroke Association statistics also reveal that, within the first two months after a stroke, one in every five patients is institutionalized. Care and treatment after a stroke uses more American health care dollars than any other disease. Strokes are this country’s leading cause of serious long term disability.

To give residents in the Tri-City area the best possible chance against the threat of stroke, Washington Hospital has developed a dedicated new stroke program scheduled to open this month. The hospital’s goal is to create one of the top stroke treatment programs in the country and become certified as a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) in 2007.

“We’ve developed a high quality, hospital-wide, clinical program that addresses the stroke treatment and prevention needs of the community,” reports Douglas Van Houten, R.N., stroke coordinator for the new center. “Programs of this type make a real difference in outcomes for stroke patients.”

Washington Hospital’s new stroke treatment program is designed to respond to the care needs of patients from the time they first suffer a stroke until they return home after treatment. This requires a team effort involving emergency medical personnel in the field, emergency room physicians, nurses, radiology technicians, neurologists, interventional physicians and rehabilitation specialists. The center is recognized as a “Get with the Guidelines” program by the American Stroke Association.

As Van Houten explains it, Washington’s new program has the four “pillars” of a stroke program:

  • A team of physicians and trained staff available 24 hours a day to respond to strokes in the Emergency Room, including the use of the clot busting agent tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). If administered soon enough, tPA – which is also used for heart attacks – can dissolve many blood clots that cause strokes.

  • Registered nurses caring for patients in a designated hospital stroke unit. The nurses are trained to follow standardized stroke treatment procedures based on nationally recognized guidelines.

  • A comprehensive discharge planning process, including measures shown to prevent a second stroke. (According to an article in this year’s Stroke journal from the American Heart Association, one-third of all strokes are second strokes.) Washington’s plans include connections with acute rehabilitation facilities. Patients who participate in an active rehabilitation program within six to eight weeks of a stroke have been shown to achieve a better recovery, as reported in the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses Reference Series for Clinical Practice, 2004.

  • An active community education program that teaches the public to recognize and respond to a stroke, as well as how to prevent one.

“When someone suffers a stroke, their life changes completely,” explains Van Houten. “The physical changes that can occur are very debilitating, so people often lose their independence. Our new program will help people avoid some of the devastation so common with this lethal disease.”

To learn more about strokes, visit the web site of the American Stroke Association at

If you have a question about your health or want to know more about a recent diagnosis, Washington Hospital’s Community Health Resource Library is a great resource for finding all kinds of health-related information. New books are arriving every month in the library, which is open to the public six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Located on the first floor of Washington West (2500 Mowry Avenue), the library issues membership cards to anyone who wants to check out books, DVDs and tapes or download medical articles through the library’s subscription service.

You can find a complete listing of our collection on our web site, For more information you can visit the web site or call (510) 494-7030.
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