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March 26, 2013 > Top Notch Stroke Care Means Better Outcomes

Top Notch Stroke Care Means Better Outcomes

There's a good reason why the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital dedicates resources and energy to educating the community and working to help the public prevent stroke, according to program Medical Director Ash Jain, M.D.

"Stroke remains the leading cause of long-term disability and a top-four killer in the United States," he says. "If we can help community members prevent this truly devastating disease process, that is always the ideal outcome."

Striving for the best possible outcomes

Unfortunately, strokes-the vast majority of which are caused when a blood clot travels to the brain and cuts off oxygen to the affected areas-are still one of the common causes of patients arriving in the emergency room, according to Dr. Jain. Therefore, top-notch care inside the hospital, particularly at a certified Primary Stroke Center like Washington Hospital's, is critical to mitigating the damage done when a patient suffers a stroke.

This is why medical professionals who work in stroke care must stay at the forefront of research in order to best serve patients, and why Dr. Jain and Stroke Program Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N., are interested in developing a research program that brings the latest modalities of acute stroke management to Washington's patients.

"To best serve our patients, our program must go above and beyond and stay up-to-date on the latest stroke research in a way that many community hospitals cannot," Dr. Jain says. "Techniques for acute management of stroke are always advancing, and we need to stay ahead of the curve, which is exactly what we will continue to do."

Next Tuesday, April 2, community members are invited to attend a free seminar focusing on Acute Management of Stroke/Chronic Care and Stroke Rehabilitation. Why attend? Because patients play a pivotal role in timely stroke care.

"Our primary goal is to treat stroke as quickly as possible once a patient reaches our Emergency Room, because time is everything when it comes to effective management of stroke," according to Dr. Jain. "Even small delays can have heavy costs, and research has shown that outcomes are better when people can properly identify signs of stroke and they seek help immediately."

Essentially, the more community members understand about stroke, the more likely they will be to recognize it and take action. In fact, most often it is a family member-not the stroke victim-who recognizes stroke and calls 9-1-1. Although, perhaps most importantly, many of the acute management techniques for stroke are only viable for a certain window of time, which means that a patient must reach the ER within a certain window of time.

"It is in our power to improve our times, which will maximize the number of patients who benefit from advanced treatment options, including interventional techniques in our Cath Lab," he explains. "However, it is very much up to community members to understand stroke so that they know how imperative it is to call 9-1-1."

Rehab is the key

So, what happens after stroke professionals have done all they can to mitigate the damage of a stroke? This is when the road to rehabilitation begins, according to Stroke Program Clinical Coordinator Doug Van Houten.

"Stroke can have a disastrous affect on those who survive it," he points out. "It is quite clear, however, that almost all stroke survivors can get better. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy are the key components for recovering from stroke."

This means hard work, knowing where to look for resources-and optimism, says Van Houten.

"Somebody who's had a stroke, who gets good advice and good outpatient rehab-hopefully they're going to get as close to 'normal' as possible if they put in the work," he says. "A few examples of the resources out there for stroke survivors include free education classes here at the hospital, our free Stroke Support Group, as well as the National Stroke Association Web site, which has a whole book you can download about recovery that contains exercises, how to get your insurance straightened out, and explains the importance of seeing your physician regularly."

"And if stroke survivors come to the Stroke Support Group at the hospital, we talk about these things all the time, and we have a social worker who can point them in the right direction for different resources."

Van Houten says it comes down to being your own advocate on the road to recovery-and not giving up.

"The message to stroke survivors is to keep learning all you can to improve your stroke outcome," he says. "Know who to ask for help. Learn what resources are available. Finally, if you have exhausted opportunities for outpatient rehab, plan on providing for your own rehab. Schedule time every day to do the exercises you were taught in your hospital rehab program. Learn new exercises online. Continue to be your own advocate."

Essentially, there are two roads to take when it comes to stroke recovery. One is sitting on the couch and giving up. The other is striving for whatever improvement is possible.

"Studies indicate that stroke survivors who continue to maintain hope and optimism and who continue to work hard can improve their outcomes," Van Houten says. "Why not learn all the available resources to get all the help you can?"

To learn more about acute management of stroke inside the hospital, as well as how rehab can aid in the recovery process, plan to attend the Free Stroke Education Series seminar next Tuesday, April 2, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, (Washington West building) located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

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

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