Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s designation as the only comprehensive stroke center in central Pennsylvania means that patients who require treatment beyond administration of the clot-busting tPA drug can get the care they need.
Several hospitals in the central Pennsylvania region have now become certified or primary stroke centers [see graphic for explanation on the differences between certifications].
Many hospitals have increased their rates of diagnosis and tPA administration as a result of a telemedicine partnership with Penn State Hershey.
Still, about a quarter of stroke patients need advanced interventions that only an academic or comprehensive stroke center like Penn State Hershey can provide.
Kevin Cockroft, M.D., professor of neurosurgery, radiology and public health sciences and co-director of Penn State Hershey Stroke Center, said no other hospital in the area has 24/7 on-site neurosurgeons with the ability to thread catheters to the brain to pull out clots or perform endovascular surgical procedures to treat aneurysms and blood vessel malformations that cause hemorrhagic strokes.
“It can make a huge difference between a good functional outcome and not,” he said. “As a comprehensive stroke center, we have to be able to offer these services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
In addition to a dedicated neuroscience intensive care unit, Penn State Hershey Stroke Center educates pre-hospital emergency medical personnel on diagnosing the type and severity of a stroke so they know when to take patients to a closer, non-comprehensive medical center versus when they should go directly to Penn State Hershey.
“Many times, they will go to a primary stroke center first for evaluation and then they get sent on for more advanced care,” Cockroft said. “But time is lost stopping somewhere else first.”
According to stroke program manager Kathy Morrison, R.N., Penn State Hershey is one of only50-some comprehensive stroke centers nationwide.
“It’s a badge of honor because of the stringent review process,” she said. “To be designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center, you have to show not only that you are giving excellent care and tracking patient outcomes beyond discharge, but also that you have a lot of research involvement and are educating the professional and general community.”