If you or a loved one suffers a stroke, you might think that just getting to the hospital is all you need to worry about. And that’s partially true – immediate, or “acute” treatment (within the first 3 hours) is crucial. It identifies the location and severity of the stroke, and it greatly improves the patient’s chance of survival.
But beyond that, there are actually different levels of care available to stroke patients depending on the facility and its individual capabilities. One such distinction is a Primary Stroke Center.
What is a Primary Stroke Center?
A Primary Stroke Center is a facility that has been certified to provide highly specialized care to stroke patients via a dedicated team that’s activated immediately to diagnose and treat patients the second they arrive in the ER. To be classified this way, a hospital needs to meet certain qualifications:
- Access to brain surgeons and neurological services
- 24-hour access to MRI or CT scan capabilities
- Additional, specialized stroke training for emergency personnel
- An acute stroke team must be available around the clock
… as well as several other factors. But why that matters to you is that with stroke treatment, time is of the essence. Every second counts. So being at a Primary Stroke Center, like those within the Sentara network of healthcare facilities, provides a patient with a higher level of diagnosis and treatment that could make all the difference.
How do I know if I’m getting the stroke care I need?
Asking your doctor is the best way to figure out what level of care you or a loved one requires, and if you’re in the right place to receive it. Your physician or on-site hospital team can also help you determine if further rehabilitation is needed for recovery.
The most important thing, according to Jessica Silcox, stroke coordinator for Sentara, is to get a complete neurological consultation immediately.
"Because there are a lot of things that mimic stroke that aren’t stroke, so it’s important to provide a comprehensive diagnosis," Silcox says.
Facilities like those within the Sentara network are now also utilizing TeleStroke capabilities, which allows a neurologist to see and monitor patients remotely through a sophisticated webcam-like setup. The neurologist can just log on and provide a complete consult 24 hours a day.