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Comprehensive Stroke Center benefits community

New director of the UCI Health Comprehensive Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center explains the benefits of comprehensive stroke care

May 04, 2015

Wengui Yu, MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist, neurointensivists and vascular neurologist who specializes in treating severe strokes and complex cerebrovascular disorders.

As the new director of the UCI Health Comprehensive Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center, Yu's goal is to make it one of the best in the nation.

Before joining UC Irvine Medical Center and the UC Irvine School of Medicine, Yu directed neurocritical care programs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is the significance of the designation as a Comprehensive Stroke Center?

UC Irvine Medical Center was the first hospital in Orange County to achieve this designation, which recognizes hospitals that have the state-of-the-art equipment, infrastructure, staff and training necessary to diagnose and treat patients with the most complex strokes. Provided through a partnership between the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission, Comprehensive Stroke Center status is the highest level of stroke certification available.

How does that benefit the community?

Stroke is the No. 1 one cause of disability and the No. 5 leading cause of death in the United States. When treating a stroke, time is a huge factor, which means being able to respond quickly. A stroke can be devastating, but the proper treatment program can make a tremendous difference for patients. When a stroke happens, every minute counts. The faster you are diagnosed and treated for a stroke, the better the chances of recovery, which is why access to a Comprehensive Stroke Center is critical, where state-of-the art facilities and highly skilled specialists are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 

The coordinated approach of the UCI Health team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurointensivists, radiologists, nurses, pharmacists and therapists provides the highest level of treatment for stroke patients. As a leader in stroke care, we offer the most advanced technology and best practices. Our program makes a tremendous difference in the community by improving patient survival rates and minimizing disabilities.

Why is it important to have a team of specialists?

A stroke, or brain attack, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot, or when the blood clot bursts. That means we need to be able to respond quickly to open the vessel and restore oxygen and blood flow. The quicker treatment begins, the better chances patients have for survival and full recovery. Stroke patients need to be quickly evaluated in the emergency department by stroke neurologists.

Based on the type of stroke and degree of injury to the brain, the patient may be treated with a clot-busting drug, undergo endovascular clot removal, emergency brain surgery or resuscitation in the Neurointensive Care Unit. World-class care by highly trained experts increases survival and recovery from stroke.

What are the latest research findings in stroke care and rehabilitation?

I recently attended the International Stroke Conference in Nashville, where the results of four clinical studies were presented regarding the effectiveness of endovascular therapy using clot retrieval devices for treating an ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke is triggered by a blood clot. For patients who experience an ischemic stroke, the clot retrieval device is threaded through an artery in the grown to the blocked artery in the brain. The clot is removed, quickly restoring blood flow to tissue being deprived of oxygen, but still viable. Brain cells that would have otherwise died are saved, reducing the rates of death and debilitation, and increasing the number of patients able to return to independent lives.

These devices can also be used in combination with the clot-busting drug tPA. Although tPA is very effective for dissolving small clots and has saved many lives, large clots, which are more devastating, do not respond as well. This is the top advance in the field of stroke care.

Any other comments or insights you’d like to share?

The UCI Health Comprehensive Stroke Center has improved the lives of hundreds of stroke patients. These programs help establish standards of excellence and best practices that directly impact patients’ lives. As the only such certified center in Orange County, we are dedicated to providing the best possible care to stroke patients throughout the community. 

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 14 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.