When Erwin Song, MD, heard that St. Jude Medical Center had been named
one of the nation’s best stroke centers, he was far from surprised.
“We consistently and often dramatically outperform national benchmarks
and standards in stroke care,” explains the board-certified emergency
medicine physician and co-medical director of St. Jude Stroke Center.
“We see it every day in patients who go back home to their families
because we have the expertise, skill and technology to treat stroke faster
and more successfully.”
After a rigorous survey, The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American
Stroke Association certified St. Jude as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke
Center, one of an elite group of hospitals capable of treating even the
most challenging types of stroke. Fewer than 100 hospitals in the nation
— and just a handful in California — have earned this coveted
“The difference between walking away from a stroke or living with
severe disability can literally be a matter of minutes,” explains
Dr. Song, who points to St. Jude’s round-the-clock access to experienced
stroke experts, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, interventional
neuroradiologists, neurocritical care specialists, physiatrists, specially-trained
nurses, technologists and therapists.
“We don’t just follow evidence-based practices for successful
stroke treatment; we’re at the forefront of developing them.”
WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
Robert Almanza is one example. The father-of-two suffered a severe stroke
while at the DMV and was taken by ambulance to St. Jude’s Emergency
Department (ED). Immediately assessed by the stroke team, the Fullerton
resident received tPA within 12 minutes of arrival — meaning within
12 minutes he was assessed by the stroke team, had labs drawn, an IV started,
and CT scans performed and interpreted.
Minutes later, more advanced brain imaging revealed the blockage was in
the internal carotid artery, an area of the brain where tPA is rarely
effective. Robert was quickly taken to the hospital’s state-of-the-art
Neurointerventional Lab where Hamed Farid, MD, medical director, interventional
neuroradiology, threaded a tiny catheter and micro-instruments through
the femoral artery to the brain — successfully removing the clot
and reversing the stroke’s progress. Two days later Robert went
home. “It was amazing what St. Jude did for me,” says Robert.
“To have this kind of care available is just amazing.”
“For the vast majority of hospitals, stroke treatment stops at tPA
and transferring to a hospital with more advanced capabilities, like St.
Jude, is the next step. Time is critical when having a stroke, every minute
that passes without treatment means brain cells die and the chances of
disabilities increase,” explains Dr. Farid, a lead investigator
in the nationwide SWIFT-PRIME study that established minimally-invasive
clot removal as the standard of care for certain types of stroke. Recently
published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the research is expected
to shape stroke treatment for years to come.
EVERY ELEMENT OF CARE
The comprehensiveness of St. Jude’s program becomes clearer when
you realize that no matter what Robert’s CT scan had revealed, the
necessary resources and capabilities were standing by. If a brain hemorrhage
or aneurysm had been detected, St. Jude offers the state’s most
advanced neurosurgical setting and a team of highlyrespected neurosurgeons.
If specialized care had been needed, St. Jude offers one of the nation’s
largest team of board-certified neurocritical physicians, as well as specially-trained nurses.
St. Jude also offers a comprehensive and innovative list of both inpatient
and outpatient rehabilitation services. Board-certified physical medicine
and rehabilitation physicians combined with physical, occupational, speech
and recreational therapists help stroke patients recover faster and more
“At every point of care, we’ve brought together the research,
expertise and technology to offer patients the best possible chance of
a full recovery,” explains Anthony Ciabarra, MD, co-medical director,
St. Jude Stroke Center. “We recognize the difference that can be
made in patient’s lives by offering this unique level of care —
and we are committed to making it happen.”