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UC Irvine Medical Center county's first designated stroke receiving center

Program result of years-long effort by UCI neurologist to improve emergency stroke care

May 07, 2009

Orange County’s Health Care Agency has designated UC Irvine Medical Center in the city of Orange a Stroke-Neurology Receiving Center as part of Southern California’s first program to direct patients to hospitals best equipped to provide state-of-the-art stroke care.

“This is an enormous step forward for the health of Orange County’s residents,” said Dr. Steven C. Cramer, who spearheaded the program.

Paramedics and ambulances will now take patients in the early hours of a stroke to one of six receiving centers that offer high-level neurovascular care and have specialists available 24/7. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a main cause of serious, long-term disability. There are as many as 8,000 new cases each year in Orange County.

“Studies show that immediate treatment in the early stages of a stroke can significantly improve outcomes for patients,” said Cramer, director of the UC Irvine Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center. “The key is to have a system in place to quickly recognize stroke symptoms, properly triage patients and then deliver them to a hospital prepared to rapidly assess their condition and begin treatment.”

Not all hospitals have the resources or personnel to effectively treat a stroke. The county requires that a Stroke-Neurology Receiving Center have a dedicated medical director, an emergency-medicine physician on-site at all times, and a neurologist, neurosurgeon and radiologist on call and always available. UC Irvine also has an interventional neuroradiologist available around the clock capable of extracting a stroke-causing blood clot by inserting a catheter into a patient’s arteries.

Orange County is the first in Southern California to enact such a system, joining several other California counties, such as Santa Clara and San Francisco, and states such as New York.

The creation of the Stroke-Neurology Receiving Center program has long been Cramer’s dream. More than four years ago, he and UC Irvine stroke center manager Dana Stradling began promoting the concept across the county to neurologists, neurosurgeons, emergency-medicine physicians, hospital CEOs and others. The idea gained critical backing from the county’s Health Care Agency, culminating in approval by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

“This system would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the Health Care Agency and the support of the supervisors,” Cramer said.

The accomplishment is an example of the role UC Irvine can play in the community as a teaching hospital and research center.

“A university medical center like UC Irvine has a responsibility to the community, and we see the designation of these receiving centers reflecting this responsibility. The result is a win for critical care in Orange County,” Cramer said.

UC Irvine Medical Center was the first hospital in Southern California and among the first nationally to be recognized by The Joint Commission for its exemplary stroke-care services. It was one of the state’s first medical centers to create a program for treating transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, which may occur in advance of a major stroke. UC Irvine participates in numerous leading-edge clinical trials in acute and chronic stroke treatment.

About UC Irvine Medical Center: UC Irvine Medical Center is Orange County’s only university research hospital, Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. It offers acute- and general-care services at its new 482,000-square-foot UC Irvine Douglas Hospital.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UC Irvine maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.