DALLAS – March 31, 2014 – Recognizing UT Southwestern Medical Center’s high-level capabilities in treating the most complex stroke cases on a round-the-clock basis, The Joint Commission has certified the Medical Center as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center.
This recognition is the highest level certification for stroke care, with only 67 centers across the nation having received this distinction from a unique collaboration including the Joint Commission, the American Heart Association, and the American Stroke Association. UT Southwestern’s Robert D. Rogers Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center is the first and only Joint Commission-certified Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center in North Texas and only the second in Texas.
The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations and programs in the United States. To qualify for Joint Commission certification, a facility must have the dedicated resources, staff, training, and procedures needed to achieve the best outcomes for complex stroke cases. As a result of The Joint Commission certification, the State of Texas has designated UT Southwestern a Level 1 Comprehensive Stroke Center.
“This certification assures the people of North Texas that stroke victims in this region have access to the most advanced technology, procedures, and best practices to serve stroke patients,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern.
UT Southwestern’s highly trained stroke care teams include neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroimaging specialists, stroke rehabilitation specialists, and emergency medicine physicians, along with others who have ready access to technology and medications that can limit damage during or after a stroke. At UT Southwestern, stroke-prevention procedures involve the use of special lasers to connect arteries without stopping blood flow to the brain, as well as a special stent (a thin tubular mesh) designed specifically for blood vessels in the brain to prevent further strokes. Specialized equipment includes a CT scanner that creates 3-D images of an organ in real time, allowing physicians to quickly diagnose strokes and heart attacks.
“Studies show that having immediate access to medical professionals who are expertly trained to handle complex strokes – together with immediate, 24/7 access to critical imaging equipment and medications – can dramatically improve the outcome for stroke patients,” said Dr. Mark Goldberg, Chairman of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, who directs the Beatrice Menne Haggerty Center for Research on Brain Injury and Repair in Stroke.
A 2010 study in the journal Stroke found that stroke centers following national guidelines recorded fewer fatalities and reduced institutional care a year later, as compared with general hospitals; had lower mortality rates during a nine-year follow-up; and increased median survival by one year.
To extend the reach of these capabilities to rural areas without access to certified stroke care, UT Southwestern has taken another innovative step – developing a telestroke program. This program uses communication technology to connect UT Southwestern medical professionals with those in outlying areas. The program also promotes the development of referral networks with area hospitals.
“A top priority at UT Southwestern is ensuring that our programs and procedures deliver the best possible care to each patient on a consistent basis,” said Dr. John Warner, Chief Executive Officer of UT Southwestern University Hospitals. “Patients come to us because of our world-class expertise, not only in stroke care, but in every aspect of the care they receive at our hospitals.”
The Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern is ranked among the top 20 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual report on Best Hospitals. UT Southwestern stroke specialists helped pioneer development of some of the most advanced and effective brain aneurysm technology and procedures in use today, including refining the fast-acting drug tPA to rapidly dissolve blood clots. UT Southwestern physicians also were instrumental in developing the concept and standards for certifying stroke programs.
Dr. Mark Alberts, Professor and Vice Chairman of Clinical Affairs in the Department of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern, was one of the authors of the stroke certification guidelines. Dr. Alberts also serves as co-chair of the Brain Attack Coalition, a group of professional, voluntary, and governmental entities dedicated to reducing the occurrence, disabilities, and death associated with stroke.
“Patients who have a stroke can have different outcomes,” Dr. Alberts noted. “This is determined in part by the size and type of the stroke. But a lot is determined by the care patients get in the acute setting and the sub-acute setting, rehabilitation, and the continuum of care. That’s why we researched what makes a difference for patients and developed these important standards. The literature shows that if you go to a comprehensive stroke center, you will have better outcomes.”