What is a Stroke?

Stroke is serious condition that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind diseases of the heart and cancer. A stroke is to the brain, what a heart attack is to the heart. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic) or bursts (hemorrhagic).  When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the oxygen-rich blood it needs, so it starts to die.

Stroke Risk Assessment

Anybody can have a stroke, but certain factors place you at higher risk. Some factors that increase your risk of stroke cannot be changed. The good news, however, is that many risk factors are linked to lifestyle and are, therefore, under your control. Are you at risk? Review Your Stroke Risk Factors

CHI Health Primary Stroke Centers

When it comes to stroke, two factors can make a difference in increasing your chance for recovery. The first factor is to act FAST and call 911, because the sooner stroke treatment starts, the better the outcome.

The second factor affecting outcome is where you are treated. Since 2009, CHI Health has had hospitals that are Joint Commission-designated Primary Stroke Centers. This certification recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to achieve better outcomes for stroke care. It was developed in collaboration with the American Stroke Association. 

Joint Commission Seal Six metro CHI Health hospitals are certified as Primary Stroke Centers by the Joint Commission.

Having Atrial Fibrillation also raises stroke risk. All Alegent Creighton metro area hospitals hold triple certification from The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care in Atrial Fibrillation, Heart Failure and Chest Pain. CHI Health is the first health care system ever to achieve this triple accreditation. Our patient care in these four key emergency areas saves lives.

Rapid, Advanced Care

CHI Health Stroke Centers are staffed 24-hours a day by emergency physicians and nurses and other personnel who are specially trained in stroke care and Neurologists are always on-call. From the moment the patient enters the emergency room, the coordinated stroke care team performs assessment, imaging, lab and other diagnostics necessary to identify the type and location of the stroke.

Not all hospitals have the necessary staff, equipment and evidence-based procedures in place to diagnose and treat patients with stroke rapidly and efficiently. Our stroke care procedures were developed by a multidisciplinary team, led by physicians and are research-based. They are reviewed and updated annually upon the latest available evidence.

Once a diagnosis has been made, advanced therapies, including Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a clot-busting medication, are started. Early treatment with thrombolytic drugs, such as tPA may significantly improve patient outcomes and limit the long-term effects of an ischemic stroke. Neurological, blood pressure, vital signs and visual checks are made at close intervals to monitor medication effects. Oxygen and oxygen monitoring also are started.

After Stroke Care

Following initial treatment, the patient is moved to the Cardiac Care Unit, where an interdisciplinary care team evaluates the patient daily to identify needs, concerns and goals. They are entered into an evidenced-based stroke care plan.

Preventing another stroke or complications from stroke are primary concerns. Blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) are given to prevent clots from forming (deep vein thrombosis). Swallowing difficulty (dysphasia) affects more than 70% of people who have had a stroke. A speech therapist evaluates the patient for problems with swallowing to decrease the chance of food, drink and oral medications from entering the windpipe (aspiration) and causing pneumonia. Bed and chair alarms are installed for patients at risk of falling.

Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation begins with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist meeting the patient while he or she is still in the hospital, because the sooner therapy is started the better the outcome.

If additional inpatient rehabilitation care is necessary, CHI Health Immanuel Rehabilitation Center, offers a Stroke Specialty Program that has earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for meeting the most rigorous guidelines for service and quality. Immanuel Rehabilitation Center offers advanced equipment in a healing environment designed specifically for patients and their families.

A physiatrist works closely with the patient to develop a comprehensive therapy plan that addresses all the patient’s therapy needs. Regardless of care level, rehabilitation team members provide recovering patients a full spectrum of coordinated services including: sub-acute care, physical,  occupational and speech therapy; adaptive technologies, driver assessment and rehabilitation,  therapeutic recreation and aquatic programs. After discharge, follow-up care is provided by the patient’s physician. Outpatient rehabilitation therapy is provided at CHI Health outpatient physical therapy clinics, close to home. CHI Health Home Care provides services and equipment to make the patient’s home life easier.

When the patient goes home he or she is given complete care instructions and a special book with resources and detailed information on stroke.

Stroke recovery is a long process. CHI Health's stroke support group enables patients and caregivers to get information from healthcare experts on a variety of  timely topics and allows patients and caregivers to share information with one another. Immanuel Rehabilitation Center’s Sports and Leisure Program promotes health and wellness at any level of ability, and helps patients re-learn previous activities or explore entirely new ones.  

Stroke Prevention

Alegent Creighton Clinic primary care physicians educate patients on the signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of calling 911 when the first signs and symptoms occur. 

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented in people over age 55 by controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, low physical activity, diabetes and Atrial Fibrillation.

Alegent Creighton Clinic Care Coordinators provide hands-on management of long-term diseases and conditions. CHI Health provides Weight Management, Smoking Cessation, Heart & Sole walking program and Wellness Centers to promote healthy lifestyles. All programs are directed by certified health professionals.

For people who do not have personal physicians, Health fairs provided by CHI Health enable them to get screened for stroke risk factors and detect potential problems. Alegent Creighton Quick Care provides free blood pressure checks to anyone who requests one.

Continuing Education for Health Professionals

CHI Health sponsors for health professionals a yearly seminar which addresses all aspects of stroke care. Additionally, we offer EMS professionals training in stroke and other topics on a regular basis.

 Alegent Creighton Clinic primary care physicians monitor patients with risk factors and discuss lifestyle changes patients can make to reduce their risk of stroke.
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