Stroke Program Certified by National Organization

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MADISON -- Seconds matter when you're having a stroke, and so does the hospital that treats you.

The Joint Commission has recognized University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics as a Primary Stroke Center, although the stroke services the hospital offers are already far broader than the "primary" designation indicates. The hospital plans to seek certification as a comprehensive stroke center as soon as the Joint Commission establishes this higher level of recognition.

"We're very pleased to have the Joint Commission recognize the excellent quality of care that UW Hospital provides to stroke patients," said Donna Katen-Bahensky, hospital president and CEO. "But this is only the beginning. We look forward to achieving the next step of recognition, which would acknowledge that we offer a level of comprehensive care above and beyond what is available elsewhere in Wisconsin."

Most important to patients, the Joint Commission designation means UW Hospital is recognized as a place that adheres to established guidelines for treating people having strokes. In a health emergency -- when seconds can mean the difference between full recovery and a lifetime of disability -- UW Hospital has set a goal of identifying a potential stroke patient within 10 minutes of arrival, getting the patient to a scan for diagnosis within a half hour and into treatment within an hour. This is critical as the only federally approved medication for strokes needs to be administered within the three hours of the first stroke symptoms.

Nationwide, every year more than 700,000 people will suffer a stroke, defined as when an artery in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or bursts and bleeds. Middle-aged women may be more likely than men to suffer strokes, and 40 percent of all strokes strike people younger than 60. African Americans are also at higher risk for stroke.

The Joint Commission, an independent non-profit that accredits more than 15,000 health care organizations nationwide, began certifying Primary Stroke Centers in 2003. It visited UW Hospital in April, evaluating the hospital on criteria for best care set by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association guidelines for early treatment of strokes. The designation puts UW Hospital in an elite group of hospitals who have earned the primary certification, including fewer than 20 percent of Wisconsin's 140 hospitals.

But the hospital isn't resting on its laurels. Christine M. Whelley, RN, UW stroke program coordinator, said her group plans to go for a higher level of certification.

In addition to the stroke team, on call 24 hours a day, the UW offers:
  • Five stroke neurologists, part of an interdisciplinary team that includes neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, neuroanesthesiologists and neurointerventionalists
  • Comprehensive, interdisciplinary stroke rehabilitation, including physiatrists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists
  • The area's greatest level of experience in endovascular treatments to reduce stroke damage and prevent future strokes
  • Neurosurgical expertise, including carotid endarterectomy and aneurysm clipping, that is unparalleled in the region
  • A neurological intensive care unit with specialized nursing staff
  • The area's most experienced neuroradiologists: the UW Hospital staff conducts about 30,000 neuroradiology procedures every year, including advanced MRI and MRA, functional MRI, angiography, ultrasound, transcranial Doppler and fast, comprehensive CT and MR stroke imaging protocols.

Date Published: 05/23/2008

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