Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of serious, long-term disability. In an instant, a stroke can change someone’s life forever. While some stroke sufferers regain all their capacities and lead normal lives, many are left mildly or deeply impaired, confined to wheel chairs, unable to feed, bathe or swallow, carry on a coherent conversation, think clearly or behave appropriately. About 88 percent of strokes are ischemic, occurring when a blood vessel to the brain is suddenly blocked. The rest are called hemorrhagic, and occur when a blood vessel actually ruptures, flooding the surrounding tissue like water spilling from a dike. Rehab is the primary path to recovery, but whether acute or long-term, it can’t reverse the effects of the stroke. What it can do is restore strength to weakened muscles, teach people new ways to do things they once did automatically, such as walking and speaking, and shepherd them along the road back to independence. A rapid response to symptoms can make a difference between short-term or permanent disability. Several centers in the region have this expertise and follow up with world-class inpatient and outpatient rehab programs. All those listed below have been designated “primary stroke centers” by the Joint Commission on Accreditation, meaning their exceptional technology and training fosters the best possible outcomes for stroke sufferers.
Out of more than 500 hospitals, the Stroke Center at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience was the only Delaware Valley facility to receive both the gold and silver excellence awards from the American Stroke Association. This is a place you’d want to take someone for acute stroke care. Its state-of-the-art neurosurgical treatments include use of the Wingspan Stent System, a tube inserted in the brain to open potentially life-threatening clogged arteries to prevent a potential stroke, and a delicate procedure called “coiling” used to keep dangerous aneurysms from rupturing. The staff here is built around board-certified vascular neurologists and neurocritical care physicians (900 Walnut Street, Suite 200; 800-JEFFNOW, jeffersonhospital.org/neuroscience)
Magee Rehabilitation, part of the Jefferson Health System, was ranked 14th in rehab nationally by U.S. News & World Report in 2007, and served 337 stroke patients last year (16th and Race Streets, 215-587-3000, mageerehab.org/programs).
In slot 17 on the U.S. News rehab list is Albert Einstein Medical Center’s MossRehab. Certified for acute and rehab care, it treated 650 in-patient stroke victims in 2007, and has specialty programs in gait and motion analysis, robotic-assisted physical therapy and aphasia (1200 West Tabor Road, 215-456-9900; 60 East Township Line Road, Elkins Park, 215-663-6000, mossrehab.org).
Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center was the recipient of a 2008 HealthGrades award for Stroke Care Excellence for its advanced capabilities and protocols for rapid treatment of stroke victims; a “hospital within the hospital” supplies rehab after the crisis has been addressed (1600 Haddon Avenue, Camden, 856-757-3500, lourdesnet.org/services/stroke.php).
At Penn Stroke Center, the emphasis is on acute stroke intervention, with research and clinical trials in prevention and neurological treatment and a special interest in young adult victims (Ravdin Building, 3400 Spruce Street, second floor, 800-789-PENN; 330 South 9th Street, third floor, Neurology, phone 800-789-PENN, pennhealth.com/neuro/services/stroke.html).
The Stroke Center at Abington Memorial Hospital’s certification as a Primary Stroke Center is bolstered by an outstanding commitment to community outreach in prevention, care, education and recovery (1200 Old York Road, Abington, 215-481-3627, amh.org/stroke).
Bryn Mawr Rehab isn’t considered a primary stroke center because it’s devoted solely to rehab; patients are referred here after leaving the hospital. However, the rehab services in its Stroke Unit are excellent, especially in the Young Stroke Program for people under 45 (414 Paoli Pike, Malvern, 610-251-5400, brynmawrehab.org).