For Immediate Release October 04, 2021

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Stephanie Janard:

Medical Center earns American Heart Association’s Gold Plus recognition for high standards of care, along with a coveted Target Stroke Honor Role Elite designation for timely treatment of ischemic stroke

The Comprehensive Stroke Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has been recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA) as among the best in the nation for patient care, the University of Maryland Medicine (comprised of UMMC and the University of Maryland School of Medicine) announced today.

The AHA gave multiple accolades to UMMC’s Stroke Center, including Gold Plus Recognition for 85% or higher rates of compliance with AHA’s rigorous, research-based stroke care guidelines; Target Stroke Honor Role Elite for rapid treatment of ischemic stroke patients; and 90% or higher compliance with guidelines for treating diabetic strokes. UMMC Stroke Center’s lifesaving care is provided by faculty from the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology and its Divisions of Neuroradiology and Neurosurgery.

“As a leading cause of adult disability, stroke can impact anyone. Where and when you receive care is crucial to recovery. These latest honors from the AHA further show the UMMC Stroke Center’s national leadership for evidence-based treatment and recovery from stroke,” said Bert W. O’Malley, MD, President and CEO of UMMC.

Ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs when a vessel to the brain is blocked, disrupting blood flow to the brain. Most such blockages can be successfully broken up with certain drugs, a process known as thrombolytic therapy, but time is of the essence to do so. As underscored by the AHA accolades, UMMC’s neurologists are among the most quickly responsive in their field to administer the therapy.

“The UMMC Comprehensive Stroke Center is nationally recognized as one of the premier centers dedicated to saving lives and restoring function to patients with acute strokes and complex cerebrovascular disease,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Our UMSOM faculty have pioneered innovations like the Brain Attack Team that rapidly evaluates and treats patients around the clock to ensure they get treated as soon as possible after their symptom onset, which can save lives and preserve speech and mobility.”

Going to “BAT” for Stroke Patients

The UMMC Comprehensive Stroke Center is one of the busiest in the region, receiving 1,600 calls annually from area physicians seeking consultation with stroke experts, while providing the most advanced and innovative treatments for more than 1,200 patients with neurovascular disease every year.

On the front line of these efforts is UMMC Stroke Center’s Brain Attack Team (BAT), created to rapidly evaluate and treat patients with vascular causes of neurological disorders. Staffed by board-certified faculty from multiple specialties who can provide rapid evaluation and complex lifesaving interventions for patients, BAT counts among its ranks highly skilled vascular neurologists, emergency physicians, neuro-intensivists, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons, interventional neuroradiologists, nurses and other professionals.

The rapid patient response commitment is modeled after the concept of the “Golden Hour” pioneered at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center. With two million neurons dying every minute after a stroke, literally every second counts for stroke patients. BAT’s accelerated care often begins well in advance of a stroke patient arriving at UMMC for treatment. The team collectively works as a statewide and national resource for primary stroke center physicians, providing both general consultation on stroke care and pre-hospital evaluation of stroke patients.

"Providing top quality care to stroke patients is a team effort and I am pleased to see the efforts of multiple neuro-departments within the hospital recognized with this award,” said Marcella Wozniak, MD, Professor of Neurology at UMSOM and Medical Director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at UMMC. Dr. Wozniak is also Chairperson of the American Heart Association Telestroke Committee.

Recovery from Strokes

In the not too distant past, strokes commonly resulted in death or massive loss in physical and mental functionality. However, over the past several decades, different drugs and surgical procedures have received approval for repairing the damage from strokes, resulting in a significant upswing in recovery rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the mortality rate from strokes for adults over 35 dropped from 315.7 deaths per 100,000 in 1968 to 73.3 per 100,000 in 2015.

Comprehensive stroke treatment, however, is not available at all hospitals. As such, UMMC’s Stroke Center is a major site of stroke care in the Mid-Atlantic region, with treatments that range from thrombolytic therapy to treat ischemic stroke, to minimally invasive surgery to repair burst blood vessels in the brain (aneurysms) that cause hemorrhagic strokes. Emergency departments throughout Maryland routinely refer suspected stroke patients to UMMC.

In a recent example, Kristin Ernst, a 51-year-old woman who had participated in five half-marathons, was airlifted to UMMC after experiencing an ischemic stroke. Within 20 minutes of arrival to the Medical Center, a team of neuroradiologists and neurologists attended to Ernst. The team ultimately reestablished blood flow to the left side of her brain, completely reversing her neurologic deficits.

“I feel fantastic. I took a walk the same day I was discharged home. I don’t even have a scar, just a tiny mark. I’m grateful to be here, thanks to UMMC’s stroke team and my husband for quickly calling 911,” Ernst said.

Seemant Chaturvedi, MD, the Stewart J. Greenebaum Endowed Professor of Stroke Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Director of the Stroke Program at the University of Maryland Medical System, the parent health system to UMMC, praised the fast actions of both Ernst and her husband.

“It is always gratifying to our team when a stroke patient leaves the hospital on their way to full recovery, in many cases resuming most of their normal activities the day of discharge. We cannot emphasize enough how much this depends on quickly recognizing a likely stroke and getting the patient to treatment. In this case, Ms. Ernst and her husband did everything right and she has the recovery to show for it,” said Chaturvedi.

Dr. Chaturvedi is a co-author of new guidelines for the prevention of stroke and transient ischemic attack in people who have already suffered a stroke. The guidelines were written in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Peter Crino MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Neurology Department at UMSOM, and a neurologist at UMMC, endorsed the outstanding work of the Stroke Team. “The Stroke Program in the Department of Neurology provides outstanding care to individuals suffering from acute stroke in the region, and is leading the way to new stroke clinical trials and therapies,” Dr. Crino said.

How to Recognize Signs of a Stroke

Rapidly identifying the symptoms of stroke is essential to recovery. UMMC recommends consulting the “BE FAST” checklist.

  • Balance - Ask if the person feels dizzy or has trouble standing.
  • Eyes - Ask if the person has blurred or double vision.
  • Face - Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops.
  • Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech - Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like, "The sky is blue," and note whether it's correct or speech is confused, slurred or garbled.
  • Time - Call 911 immediately if the person has any or several of these symptoms. Time lost is brain lost.

If you think you or someone near to you is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. For non-emergency evaluations by stroke center physicians at UMMC, call 410-328-4323 for an appointment.

About the University of Maryland Medical Center
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospital campuses in Baltimore: the 800-bed flagship institution of the 13-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and the 200-bed UMMC Midtown Campus. Both campuses are academic medical centers for training physicians and health professionals and for pursuing research and innovation to improve health. UMMC's downtown campus is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurosciences, advanced cardiovascular care, and women's and children's health, and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the downtown campus are clinical faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The UMMC Midtown Campus medical staff is predominately faculty physicians specializing in a wide spectrum of medical and surgical subspecialties, primary care for adults and children and behavioral health. UMMC Midtown has been a teaching hospital for 140 years and is located one mile away from the downtown campus. For more information, visit www.umm.edu.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding.  As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of over $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies.  In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the Best Medical Schools, published in 2021, the UM School of Medicine is ranked #9 among the 92 public medical schools in the U.S., and in the top 15 percent (#27) of all 192 public and private U.S. medical schools.  The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu.