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Recommendations for the Establishment of Primary Stroke Centers

The Brain Attack Coalition's recommendations for a Primary Stroke Center address the following 11 major aspects of acute stroke care:

Acute Stroke TeamsThe Acute Stroke Team should include a physician with experience in diagnosing and treating cerebrovascular disease, and one other healthcare provider as a minimum. Hospital-based stroke teams should be available around-the-clock, seven days a week in order to evaluate within 15 minutes any patient who may have suffered a stroke.
Written Care ProtocolsHospitals should have written procedures to streamline and accelerate the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients. The availability of such protocols is a key step in reducing time to treatment as well as complications from treatment.
Emergency Medical ServicesEmergency medical services (EMS) have a vital role in the rapid transportation and survival of stroke patients. Improved coordination between hospitals and EMS is a cornerstone of a Primary Stroke Center. One element of a well integrated system would be effective communication between EMS personnel and the stroke center during rapid transport of a patient experiencing a stroke.
Emergency DepartmentThe emergency department staff should have training in diagnosing and treating stroke and have good lines of communication with both EMS and the acute stroke team.
Stroke UnitA Primary Stroke Center wishing to provide care beyond the initial life-threatening period should have access to a Stroke Unit where patients can receive specialized monitoring and care. Some hospitals may choose to stabilize patients and transfer them to another facility.
Neurosurgical ServicesPrimary Stroke Centers should be able to provide neurosurgical services to stroke patients within two hours of when the services are deemed necessary.
Support of Medical OrganizationThe facility and its staff, including administration, should be committed to the Primary Stroke Center. This comprehensive commitment ensures the delivery of high quality and efficient care to acute stroke patients.
NeuroimagingThe ability to perform brain imaging studies on acute stroke patients is vital for physicians to make a fast, accurate diagnosis of stroke patients. Brain imaging studies include CT scans. A Primary Stroke Center must be capable of performing an imaging study within 25 minutes of the physician's order. The image should be evaluated by a physician within 20 minutes of completion.
Laboratory ServicesStandard laboratory services should be available around-the-clock, seven days per week at a Primary Stroke Center. Standard laboratory services include rapidly performing and reporting blood counts, blood chemistries and coagulation studies. A Primary Stroke Center also should be able to rapidly obtain ECG and chest x-rays.
Outcomes/Quality ImprovementPrimary Stroke Centers should have a database or registry for tracking the number and type of stroke patients seen, their treatments, timeline for treatments and some measurement of patient outcome.
Educational ProgramsThe professional staff of a Primary Stroke Center should receive at least eight hours per year of continuing medical education credit. In addition to professional education, the Primary Stroke Center should plan and implement at least two annual programs to educate the public about stroke prevention, diagnosis and availability for emergency treatment.
A Checklist for Communities.

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified March 29, 2016