Getting The Right Stroke Treatment, Right Away

An average of two million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated, which is why stroke continues to be a leading cause of disability and death. Most people are aware that a stroke can cause irreparable damage. What many may not know is just how frequently that damage is done.

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which means more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke annually. Stroke is a particularly severe problem in Pennsylvania due to the Commonwealth’s large population of older adults. As more Pennsylvanians continue to age, the incidence of stroke is likely to increase.

During National Stroke Awareness Month this May, we want to emphasize that the faster stroke is treated, the more likely a patient is to recover. Spotting a stroke and getting the right treatment, right away, can mean the difference between life and death and recovery or disability.

How To Spot A Stroke
“A stroke is a sudden neurological deficit caused by a vascular problem,” says Maxim D. Hammer, MD, Chief of Neurology at St. Clair Health. “It is typically caused by a problem with the circulation such as a blocked artery, which cuts off blood supply, or a ruptured or broken artery that causes bleeding in the brain.”

The vascular problem will lead to a sudden neurological deficit or an abrupt loss of function. This neurological deficit may indicate the individual is experiencing a stroke and requires immediate medical attention. It’s critical that you BE FAST to recognize the loss of function or other signs and symptoms of stroke so you can take quick action and perhaps save a life.

The sooner you recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one and call for emergency care, the sooner the type of stroke can be determined and the appropriate treatment delivered. Therapies that are administered rapidly after the onset of symptoms are vital in preventing disability and death from stroke.

Advanced Stroke Care Close To Home
St. Clair is certified by The Joint Commission to provide the next generation of stroke care. From advanced diagnostic testing to quickly pinpoint the cause, to the most modern inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services, St. Clair can deliver the care you need, when you need it, all close to home.

Stroke treatments and survival rates have greatly improved over the last decade due to recent advances in treatment. In fact, St. Clair is constantly working to maintain and surpass the highest standards of stroke care to produce better outcomes. Dr. Hammer explains, “Every decision we make is designed to continuously improve treatment times for patients having a stroke.”

New CT In The ER
Knowing that 80% of computed tomography (CT) scans are completed for patients seeking care at the Emergency Room (ER), St. Clair recently installed a new CT machine in the ER that will be staffed 24/7. This means CT scans can now be taken more quickly, and the results can be reviewed in real-time.

There will be no delay in getting patients experiencing a stroke directly to the CT scanner—which will enable medical experts to quickly identify the type of stroke—nor assessing patients to determine the severity of the stroke. The faster the type and severity of the stroke is determined, the sooner the St. Clair team can take action to prevent further damage to brain cells.

Telestroke Program with Mayo Clinic
While the initial CT scan and assessment are being completed, the St. Clair team initiates stroke protocol at the same time to ensure a collaborative team is available to assist with treatment of a stroke patient. Patients receive the best care from stroke experts at St. Clair and beyond, thanks to a video-based telestroke program made possible through St. Clair’s clinical collaboration with Mayo Clinic.

“This is a 24/7 service where a Mayo Clinic stroke specialist will be able to provide video consultation to any St. Clair Health patient at any time, day or night, when an acute stroke is suspected,” says Dr. Hammer. “We’re very proud of working with Mayo Clinic because they’re the model of how stroke care is delivered.”

In addition to emergency treatment, we are also pioneering new ways to close the gap between inpatient and post-hospital stroke care. Dr. Hammer and the St. Clair Medical Group Neurology team are committed to enhancing stroke care to meet the unique needs of each patient. His research background in novel approaches to acute stroke care has inspired new ways to deliver care with the goal of helping patients recover as much function as possible and return to independent living.

St. Clair Health is a Certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center. To learn more about stroke care at St. Clair Health, visit