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May 29, 2012 > After Stroke, What Does the Future Hold?

After Stroke, What Does the Future Hold?

Seminar Addresses Future in Diagnosis and Management of Stroke, How to Cope

There are an estimated 795,000 annual strokes in the United States, according to statistics in Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) journal. However, stroke incidence appears to be declining, and studies indicate that the rise in the number of primary and comprehensive stroke centers in the United States - like the one at Washington Hospital - as well as increasing use of acute stroke therapies, and greater availability of evidence-based approaches to prevent and treat stroke have played a significant role in the improvement.

"For residents of Washington Township, they have a distinct advantage in having a certified Primary Stroke Center in their community," says Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital. "Our program has streamlined the process for diagnosis of stroke, beginning from the very moment someone arrives in the ER or calls 9-1-1, and we continue to exceed national benchmarks for several important indicators, including patient and community education and treatment. We have worked very hard to improve outcomes every step of the way."

He says that widening treatment windows and impressive advancements allow for better outcomes, particularly at Primary Stroke Centers - programs certified by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association (AHA) - like Washington Hospital's.

But even for community members living in proximity to a Primary Stroke Center, it's important for people to learn the facts about stroke, because a better understanding of the disease is critical to achieving these better outcomes, according to Dr. Jain.

On Tuesday, June 5, during a free community education seminar, Dr. Jain will talk about the future in diagnosis and management of stroke, with Stroke Program Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N., examining issues related to life after stroke.

The Future of Stroke Care

Dr. Jain typically begins his talk with a brief tutorial on stroke - its risk factors and why it happens - before exploring the details of stroke management and the latest information about medications that have recently become available, or will become available in coming years.

He points out that existing treatments, such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is used to dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow to the brain, also continues to evolve.

"These techniques have advanced, and now it's a question of the approach," Dr. Jain says. "We can administer the tPA in the emergency room via IV, or directly into the carotid artery. We can also use devices to take the clot out of the brain's arteries to reopen the channels, and we can also place stents to keep the arteries open."

On the other hand, making the best use of these advanced medical interventions available at Washington Hospital requires that community members know what stroke is and that it represents a medical emergency that demands immediate treatment

"The numbers show that the faster patients arrive in the ER for care, the better their outcomes are," Dr. Jain concludes.

Finding Your New Normal

Life after stroke can have many challenges - including speech or mobility difficulties - but it's important for stroke survivors to take steps to get back to who they were before their stroke, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N., who also facilitates the Stroke Support Group at Washington Hospital.

"This group meets every month and enjoys each other's company and kinship," he says. "This summer they have planned their second annual trip to the Alameda County Fair, and this time they have a mission. They are collecting food items for the Alameda County 'Feed the Need' Food Bank. They will be bringing boxes of collected food items for those less fortunate than themselves."

"So you see, you can still find ways to contribute after stroke."

He says that part of getting better from something like stroke is about regaining a sense of self worth, value, and ability - and actions like contributing to Feed the Need are small, but important steps for stroke survivors to get back to being who they were before stroke. Many stroke survivors struggle with not only physical challenges, but also depression as part of their recovery, Van Houten adds.

"For most people, they would think nothing of it if a friend said, 'Hey, let's go to the fair!' You'd just go stroll around and have a good time. But for people in our support group attending the fair was a huge event, with many of them saying things like, 'I haven't had this much fun in a long time.' Stroke survivors can become so locked into being in a withdrawn, stay-at-home mode, which just reinforces how important something like this to them."

Van Houten says stroke survivors striving for physical independence go to a rehab facility and work with rehab professionals who will push them outside their comfort zone in graduated steps. The same thing goes for mental and social rehabilitation, he points out.

"You have to keep pushing yourself to try to get back to things you enjoy, because if you stop doing something, it becomes difficult to do it again," he says. "You have to intellectualize what you should be doing, and move forward. You can conquer your fears that way."

Free Seminar

Join Dr. Ash Jain and Doug Van Houten on Tuesday, June 5, to learn more about the future in diagnosis and management of stroke, as well as coping with life after stroke. The seminar will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A and B, in the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

To register, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

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