Friday, June 19, 2009

Northwest Hospital Designated Primary Stroke Center

For some residents in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties, lifesaving emergency stroke care just got closer to home. That is because the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) has just designated Northwest Hospital as a Primary Stroke Center. Now, ambulances transporting stroke victims will take them to Northwest Hospital for treatment when the hospital is the closest Primary Stroke Center.

Before the designation, emergency vehicles with stroke patients had to drive past Northwest and go to a farther hospital that was a Primary Stroke Center, which wasted precious time. During a stroke, “time is brain,” and it is critical that victims recognize the warning signs, call 911 and receive medical attention as soon as possible. The longer the wait, the potential for extensive brain damage and death increases.

“We’re very happy that Northwest Hospital is now able to serve our community better by providing closer – and therefore faster – emergency stroke care,” says Erik Wexler, president of the hospital. “Being a Primary Stroke Center is an unusual distinction for a community hospital, but we were certified as one because, among other things, we have dedicated neurology coverage; we can administer tPA, a clot-busting drug; and we have the ability to rapidly transfer the most complicated stroke cases to our affiliated teaching hospital, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.”

To be designated a Primary Stroke Center, Northwest Hospital has to continually meet 10 core measures for stroke patient care outcomes. Gurdeep Ahluwalia, M.D., Northwest’s on-staff neurologist, leads the team of medical experts who enable the hospital to provide 24/7 emergency stroke care. This team is well-versed in stroke protocol, which involves giving the patient a CT scan to confirm the stroke is caused by a blood clot and, if so, administering tPA within the first three hours of stroke symptom onset. This powerful drug has the ability to dissolve clots that are blocking oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Any patients for whom tPA is not appropriate and who require more invasive means of blood clot removal can be easily transferred and treated at Sinai Hospital if necessary.

In addition to providing time-critical emergency treatment for stroke, as a Primary Stroke Center, Northwest provides a full continuum of care for stroke patients that includes a multidisciplinary approach by emergency medicine, neurology, interventional radiology, rehabilitation services, pharmacy, lab, dietary and social work experts. The whole team works collectively to ensure stroke patients recover and are able to resume their daily activities and previous quality of life as fully as possible.

To learn more about Northwest Hospital and stroke services at LifeBridge Health, visit

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