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When Seconds Count: Life-Saving Care Is Close to Home

August 28, 2012

Hospital Provides Award-Winning Emergency Care for Heart Attack and Stroke

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The same is true for Alameda County. Receiving high-quality, effective care for the body's hardest working muscle can mean the difference between life and death.

For several years, Washington Hospital has been designated as both a "cardiac receiving center" and a "stroke receiving center" for Alameda County. Hospitals with these designations must have demonstrated that they have the facilities, technology and physicians needed to provide immediate diagnostic tests and the interventions necessary to save lives. There are only four hospitals in the county designated as cardiac receiving centers, and only three are designated as stroke receiving centers.

"Patients suffering heart attacks or strokes who are brought to Washington Hospital as a result of our designations as a receiving center get the best care available," says Dr. Ash Jain, medical director of the Washington Cardiovascular Institute and the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital.

Numerous studies have consistently found that early coronary angiography and angioplasty are associated with improved long-term outcomes after cardiac arrest.

"To become a cardiac receiving center, you must have an interventional program that meets stringent standards of getting a heart attack patient's arteries opened using angioplasty within 90 minutes of arrival in the emergency room," Dr. Jain explains. "It also is recommended that you have a cardiac surgery program available in case open-heart surgery is needed. Further, the cardiologists must be trained and qualified to perform angioplasty and other non-invasive, life-saving procedures to diagnose and treat heart attacks."

The standards for stroke receiving centers are equally stringent, he notes.

"The American Stroke Association has established 10 basic core standards of care," Dr. Jain says. "By meeting and exceeding those basic measures, we provide patients with excellent care, but we don't stop with just the basic requirements. Our dedicated Stroke Program goes above and beyond what most hospitals have. We have specialized stroke care units that are staffed 24/7 by specially trained stroke nurses.

"We also provide special training for every employee involved in stroke patients' care, from ER staff to radiology to lab technologists," he adds. "In addition, we are very thorough in identifying and treating other conditions that are risk factors for subsequent strokes - including diabetes and hypertension - even though that is not part of the basic requirements."

National Quality Awards

The excellent quality of Washington Hospital's cardiac and stroke care has been recognized time and again over the years. Most recently, for the second year in a row, the hospital's Stroke Program received a HealthGrades 5-Star Award for Stroke Care. The hospital also earned the 2012 HealthGrades Stroke Care Excellence Award and ranked among the top 5 percent in the nation for treatment of stroke. HealthGrades is an independent healthcare rating organization that reviews more than 5,000 hospitals around the country based exclusively on patient outcomes, with awards and achievements corresponding to superior patient outcomes.

"The recent awards from HealthGrades are additional recognition of the excellent quality of care provided at Washington Hospital," Dr. Jain notes. "For heart attacks and strokes, rapid treatment using proven national evidence-based standards of care can prevent or minimize permanent damage. It also could save your life. At Washington Hospital, that's exactly the kind of timely, life-saving treatment for heart attacks and strokes you can expect."

Recognize the Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke

Treating heart attack and stroke as quickly as possible is critical for saving lives and improving the long-term outcomes for patients. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Heart Attack Symptoms

The classic warning signs of a heart attack include:

* Pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back.
* Pressure or discomfort in the chest.
* Acute shortness of breath that occurs with or without chest discomfort.
* Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
* Profuse sweating.
* Nausea and vomiting.
* Dizziness or unexplained weakness.

Women who are suffering a heart attack may not complain of as much chest pain as men do. Women more often experience extreme shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Stroke Symptoms

Someone suffering a stroke might experience symptoms such as:
* Sudden numbness or weakness, almost always on one side of the body.
* Sudden confusion or difficulty in speaking or understanding language.
* Sudden trouble with seeing, such as double vision, blind spots, or a "hole" in the field of vision.
* Sudden trouble with walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
* Severe, sudden headache with no known cause.

People who experience stroke symptoms that go away fairly quickly may have suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA). With TIAs, the symptoms do resolve themselves, but they can be the precursor to a major stroke. Having a TIA means you are at a much higher risk of suffering a major stroke, and you need to be evaluated right away.

Think F.A.S.T.

To help remember the signs of stroke, think F.A.S.T.
F. Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A. Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S. Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T. Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If you think you or someone near you might be having a stroke: Don't drive, don't try to diagnose yourself, call 9-1-1 immediately.