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Improve Your Chances of Surviving Stroke

September 27, 2011

Experts to Discuss Stroke Treatment and Recovery

If you have never had a stroke, then why should you care about it? Better yet, why should you care about the future of the diagnosis and treatment of this disease—or the fact that your community hospital runs a stroke program that continuously receives awards for excellence?

The answer is quite simple, according to Ash Jain, M.D., cardiologist and medical director of Washington Hospital’s Critical Care Services and Stroke Program.

“Stroke is the worst of all the diseases as far as disabling a patient,” he says. “Half of patients who have suffered a stroke would say it’s worse than death. The quality of life is terrible after a stroke.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, during Washington Hospital’s Community Stroke Education Series, Dr. Jain will talk about the future of diagnosis and management of this deadly condition, followed by a talk by Doug Van Houten, R.N., the program’s clinical coordinator, who will discuss the challenges of life after stroke.

The future of stroke treatment

Despite its dire consequences, Dr. Jain says there is some good news when it comes to stroke. For instance, prevention is possible. And methods of diagnosis and management of stroke are continually evolving.

Notably, Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program remains on the cutting edge of stroke care as an American Heart Association (AHA)-awarded Certified Primary Stroke Center. The program was designated as among the top 15 percent of leading stroke programs in the United States and just received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers. (See article this page.)

“We have remained at the very forefront of acute stroke management and the field is getting very exciting,” Dr. Jain says. “Right now, at Washington Hospital, we can effectively treat people up to eight hours or later after a stroke. To give some perspective of how quickly things change, just a few years ago that window was less than three hours.”

When a stroke occurs, there is a sizable risk of permanent brain damage because blood clotting can reduce or eliminate the flow of oxygenated blood to affected areas of the brain. However, if patients arrive at the hospital in time, physicians potentially can reverse the damage.

“If a patient’s brain cells are at risk of dying from a lack of blood flow—something which we diagnose quickly through new tests—we are able to revascularize and revitalize these cells in hopes that function will improve.”

During his talk, Dr. Jain will share some of the technological and medical advances leading to faster and more effective diagnosis and management of acute stroke.

“Technology-wise, we’ve made some headway, and medically, we’ve made some headway,” Dr. Jain says. “For instance, because technology is improving, we can now send CAT scans of the brain to our neurologists and radiologists all at the same time to get the earliest possible diagnosis.”

Medically, blood flow to the brain can be re-established more quickly through the development of drugs and interventional techniques, including the opening of clogged arteries using balloons or a wire metal mesh tube called a stent to hold the artery open.

“During the past several years our ability to diagnose acute stroke and assess of how much damage has been done to the brain tissue has improved dramatically.”

And for residents of Washington Township Health Care District, they can rest assured that the outcomes and results of the stroke procedures performed at Washington Hospital are among the best in the country, Dr. Jain says.

What happens after a stroke?

One of the biggest challenges stroke survivors face is trying to regain their sense of independence, according to Doug Van Houten, R.N., clinical coordinator of Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program.

“After a stroke, I think that this paradox exists,” he explains. “The thing stroke survivors really need to do is to get out, try things and do new things, but on the same hand the condition itself tends to encourage them to stay home and not do these things.”

Sadly, effects of stroke, which can include limping, facial drooping and difficulty speaking, can intimidate people from taking part in activities that could help them improve their quality of life, Van Houten says.

During the upcoming seminar about life after stroke, as well as during the monthly Stroke Support Group that Van Houten facilitates, he will discuss goals after stroke and how to achieve them.

  • The biggest goals during life after stroke, he says, are:
  • Regaining independence
  •  Reclaiming as much function as possible
  •  Finding a way to enjoy leisure time
  • Preventing future strokes

“Something that people may not realize is that if you’ve had a stroke once, you have the disease process in place, which means you are at risk for another stroke,” explains Van Houten. “This is why we send stroke patients home with aspirin, blood pressure treatment, and advice to curb things like diabetes and cholesterol, including regular exercise and quitting smoking”.

However, each patient must find his or her own path during recovery. And what truly makes the difference, Van Houten says, is a person’s effort and positive attitude.

“The way you get there is individual,” he says. “Something has to happen from within that encourages you to try to regain the losses you’ve had. This is so much more easily said than done. Patients who have had strokes can be so intimidated from going out – afraid of getting lost, afraid of communicating. It’s pretty brave to be able to get back on your feet.”

To learn more about stroke diagnosis and management and life after stroke, be sure to attend the upcoming seminar on Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A, B & C, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue on the first floor of the Washington West building.

Call (510) 745-6525 or visit www.whhs.com/stroke to register or learn more about the Stroke Support Group at Washington Hospital.