New collaboration with UC Irvine Health Expands Capabilities in Stroke Care

Sometimes the numbness, slurred speech, drooping face or loss of coordination develop suddenly and are extreme. Other times symptoms may be more subtle and disappear, only to come back again – hours, days or even months later. When these or other symptoms of stroke appear in any way, every minute matters.

When Stroke Strikes

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disabilities. It can strike anyone at any time, but after the age of 55, the risk of having a stroke more than doubles.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked or bursts. When this happens, brain cells begin to die. Without prompt diagnosis and treatment, permanent damage – and a corresponding loss of function – can occur.

Stroke patients have received exceptional care at Saddleback Medical Center since the hospital was first designated a stroke receiving center in 2009. Through an innovative telemedicine program, stroke patients have a board-certified neurologist at their bedside within approximately 15 minutes of their arrival. A complete examination is performed, and a course of treatment is quickly determined.

Often, the first step in treatment is the administration of a clot-busting intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Typically administration must occur within three hours of symptom onset. When tPA is appropriate, stroke patients at Saddleback Medical Center receive the drug immediately. When given promptly, 1 in 3 patients who receive tPA resolve their symptoms or see major improvement.

A Talented Team Offers Expanded Care

For some stroke patients, tPA is not appropriate or is not enough, and a more complex surgical intervention is required to remove a clot or stop bleeding in the brain. In the past, if a more advanced intervention was needed beyond tPA, it was sometimes necessary to transport the patient to another facility.

Through a new partnership with UC Irvine Health, Saddleback Medical Center has added to its team of world-class neurointerventional physicians and surgeons and can now provide advanced treatment to stroke patients 24/7. Led by Shuichi Suzuki, MD, a neurologist at UC Irvine Health and newly appointed medical director of neurointerventional services at Saddleback Medical Center, the team offers the most advanced, minimally invasive techniques using state-of-the-art technology to residents in South Orange County.

“When it comes to stroke, we have a mantra that ‘time is brain,’ because every minute counts,” says Dr. Suzuki. “Bringing 24/7 advanced and comprehensive stroke treatment to this community is monumental because it will ultimately save lives and minimize disabilities.”

Best In Class

In recognition of Saddleback Medical Center’s expanded capabilities and commitment to provide an extraordinary stroke program, the Joint Commission has recently certified Saddleback Medical Center as an advanced primary stroke center. This designation recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care.

Saddleback Medical Center has also received the prestigious “Best Hospital” ranking in neurology and neurosurgery from U.S. News & World Report, and has been recognized by the American Heart Association for improving stroke care through consistent adherence to the latest scientific treatment guidelines.

Powerful Partnership

“Saddleback Medical Center has outstanding teams in their emergency department and biplane cath lab where stroke patients receive life-saving care,” says Dr. Suzuki. “They also have highly skilled intensive care and rehabilitation teams that provide critical post-stroke care,” he continues. “This high-quality care, combined with the services our university-level neurointerventional team provides, means patients get everything they need under one roof. It’s what makes our partnership work.”