Section: Highlights

St. Jude Medical Center Named One of the Nation’s Best Stroke Centers

St. Jude Medical Center Named One of the Nation’s Best Stroke Centers

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 designation.

“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.”


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.


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 completely.

“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.”

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