VCU Health Comprehensive Stroke Center Distinctions
The Comprehensive Stroke Center at VCU Health is the only Stroke Center in central Virginia staffed by board–certified neurointensivists with 24/7 coverage by a neurologist and neurosurgeon. We also offer 24/7 mechanical clot retrieval, called a thrombectomy, by specially trained endovascular neurosurgeons.
VCU Health uses an innovative Hybrid Suite, a unique hybrid operating room that allows for the use of traditional neurosurgical techniques in combination with endovascular (minimally invasive) treatments. This advanced suite utilizes cutting-edge imaging technology for improved outcomes. In addition, our Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit is actually located in the Critical Care Hospital so patients receive the highest level of care.
VCU Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center takes pride in the following distinctions:
- Virginia's first Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center certified by The Joint Commission. With our multidisciplinary program, patient care is coordinated from the time of arrival in the emergency department through rehabilitation.
- A Stroke Alert team goes into action the moment a patient enters the door - ensuring the fastest diagnosis and initiation of treatment.
- A record of exceeding best practices for stroke care. The target is to administer TPA (“clot-busting” drugs) to 50 percent of patients (where appropriate) within one hour of arrival. We achieve this goal virtually 100 percent of the time.
- The fastest average door-to-needle time for TPA of 26 minutes. This is what really makes the difference in a stroke patient's outcome – efficient treatment to dissolve blood clots.
Understanding Stroke Risk Factors
Certain factors are important considerations in a person's chance or risk of a stroke. Some risk factors can be changed, treated or modified - and some are not within our control, like heredity.
- High blood pressure: The main risk factor for stroke, blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 over time.
- Smoking: Damaging blood vessels and raising blood pressure, smoking also may reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your body's tissues. Exposure to secondhand smoke also can damage the blood vessels.
- Diabetes: A disease in which the blood sugar level is high because the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use its insulin properly, diabetes increases the risk of stroke. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it's used for energy so proper management is necessary.
- Heart disease: Coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), heart failure and atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke.
- Brain aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs): Aneurysms are balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst. AVMs are tangles of faulty arteries and veins that can rupture or break open within the brain. AVMs may be present at birth, but often aren't diagnosed until they rupture.
- Age and gender: Your risk of stroke increases as you get older. At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have strokes. However, women are more likely to die from stroke. Women who take birth control pills also are at slightly higher risk of stroke.
- Race and ethnicity: Strokes occur more often in African American, Alaska Native and American Indian adults than in Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian American adults.
- Personal or family history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA): If you've had a stroke, you're at higher risk for another one. Your risk of having a repeat stroke is the highest right after a stroke. A TIA – also called a "mini-stroke" – increases your risk of having a stroke, as does having a family history of stroke.
Other risk factors for stroke, many of which of you can control, include:
- Alcohol and illegal drug use, including cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy diet
- Stress and depression
- Certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, inflammation of the blood vessels and bleeding disorders
Treating Atrial Fibrillation Diminishes Risk of Stroke
Atrial fibrillation or AF, is the most common type of arrhythmia and a risk factor for stroke. An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. With AF, the blood isn’t pumped completely into the heart's two lower chambers, called the ventricles. As a result, the heart's upper and lower chambers don't work together as they should. If you have AF, you may not notice symptoms. However, even with no symptoms, AF can increase the chance of stroke. Some people with AF have chest pain or heart failure if the heart rhythm is very fast.
Know the Warning Signs of a Stroke
Following a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of stroke. Some people also may also need to take medication to help lower their risk. Sometimes strokes can occur in people who don't have any known risk factors so it is important to know the signs of a stroke. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T. It stands for face, arm (or leg), speech and time. If a person experiences sudden one-sided face, arm or leg weakness or change in speech it may be the onset of a stroke. Also, when it comes to stroke, time is critical. Getting help quickly is essential for improved outcomes. But knowing where to turn for treatment is also a critical decision. At VCU Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, we have the experience and expertise to help stroke patients efficiently and effectively.
- Time - call 911 as soon as possible
Types of Stroke We Treat
With the Comprehensive Stroke Center at VCU Health, our trained stroke team treats the following types of stroke:
- Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
- Brain aneurysm
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Extracranial and intracranial artery disease
- Intracerebral hemorrhage
- Ischemic stroke (arterial blockage to the brain)
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
With a multidisciplinary approach to care at VCU Health, our comprehensive stroke team works closely across a range of specialties, including:
Additional Resources Available
Learning more about stroke and your personal risks will not only increase awareness of the signs and symptoms, but also help you better understand how making small lifestyle changes can make a big impact on your health. Please find these helpful resources to learn more about stroke: