BOSTON - Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has become one of the first hospitals in Massachusetts to pass the Department of Public Health (DPH) licensing procedure for designation as a Primary Stroke Service Hospital.
DPH anticipates implementation of the Emergency Medical Services Stroke Point of Entry plans in March. These point of entry plans will direct emergency vehicles to hospitals with designed stroke services.
The state has established protocols and guidelines for licensing emergency stroke centers so that victims can receive immediate treatment by medical professionals trained in stroke and experienced with administering a FDA-approved, clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). If administered within hours of the onset of symptoms, tPA may successfully counter lasting ischemic stroke effects including brain damage and disability.
"Every 45 seconds, someone in America has a stroke, and every three minutes it results in a fatality," said Magdy Selim, M.D., PhD, and Gottfried Schlaug, M.D., PhD, co-directors of the BIDMC Stroke Center. "tPA is a leap forward in ischemic stroke treatment. Still, there is a limited window of opportunity for it to be administered with success, ideally within three hours. The DPH's effort will raise awareness and provide victims with a local outlet for this very crucial treatment."
Ischemic strokes, which occur when blood flow to the brain is suddenly interrupted by a clot, account for approximately 88 percent of all strokes. When part of the brain dies from this impairment, the part of the body it controls is adversely affected. The impact can result in lasting and far-reaching complications such as paralysis, difficulty speaking, visual impairment and more, including death.
Yet, brain cells affected by a stroke, can still potentially be salvaged via t-PA if administered within the first few hours of stroke occurrence. If a blocked blood vessel can be re-opened quickly enough via tPA, the stroke's impact can potentially be minimized or even reversed.
The purpose of the DPH licensing process is to establish standards for stroke care and designate primary stroke services in hospitals versed in tPA, similar to codes governing trauma centers and other specialized emergency medical systems. BIDMC and other area medical facilities worked with the DPH to develop specific guidelines for proper notification of stroke teams, assessment and treatment of hyper acute strokes, tPA administration and post-tPA care. Only medical facilities with specific stroke care will be licensed. At BIDMC, acute stroke teams have long been assembled, consisting of neurologists with special expertise in stroke, emergency physicians, critical care physicians, neurosurgeons, radiologists, vascular surgeons and nurses.
BIDMC's Stroke Center can be reached directly at 617-632-8913/8911. Stroke victims and families are urged to call 911 immediately at the onset of stroke-like symptoms. BIDMC encourages people to get to a licensed DPH Stroke Center at the earliest sign of symptoms, including:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body;
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or comprehension;
- Sudden vision trouble in one or both eyes;
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.