Harvard Heart Letter

Specialized care improves stroke survival

If you are having a stroke, a stroke center may be the place to go.

When talking about stroke, doctors often say that "time is brain." The faster you get medical help, the greater the chances of surviving and recovering from a stroke. A movement to establish special stroke centers across the country is ushering in a seemingly contradictory phrase: the old real estate adage "location, location, location." The rise of stroke centers means that emergency medical crews could bypass a nearby hospital and take a few extra minutes to reach a more distant one.

In 2000, a group of stroke experts called the Brain Attack Coalition published guidelines for establishing primary stroke centers. Hospitals that meet the coalition's standards of care are certified by the Joint Commission (a national nonprofit organization that evaluates health care facilities) in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. To date, more than 800 hospitals have been certified as primary stroke centers.

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