UK HealthCare is one of 63 U.S. institutions and the only in Lexington to be awarded this designation, which is the highest honor The Joint Commission awards to stroke centers.
Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification recognizes those hospitals that have state-of-the-art infrastructure, staff and training to receive and treat patients with the most complex strokes, including advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability of specialized treatments, and staff with the unique education and competencies to care for complex stroke patients.
"This is a significant honor, and it reflects UK HealthCare's mission to provide the highest level of care for Kentuckians," said Dr. Michael Karpf, University of Kentucky executive vice president for health affairs. "We are justifiably proud of the many people at UK HealthCare whose expertise and commitment to quality of care earned us this designation."
According to Dr. Michael Dobbs, UK HealthCare's associate chief medical officer and chief of neurological services, many institutions set this (earning designation) as a goal, and then accumulate the training and expertise to earn the designation, but UK was the reverse. "We realized had all the components to earn Comprehensive Stroke Center accreditation," Dobbs said.
"There are literally hundreds of people -- not just doctors and nurses, but emergency room personnel, radiologists, technicians, rehabilitation specialists and more-- who made this designation a reality. They are the reason that UK HealthCare is a hospital devoted to stroke care, not a hospital with a stroke center," Dobbs added.
Traci Beasley has firsthand experience of the care that earned UK HealthCare this designation. The 35-year-old elementary school math teacher and mother of two young boys was watching her eldest play his first football game when "I felt this pop in my head, and then this awful headache," she said.
"I thought it was just a migraine, but it was the worst migraine I'd ever had."
But CAT scans revealed something far more dangerous: an aneurysm. A weak spot in an artery in Beasley's brain had ruptured. Beasley was having a stroke. She was airlifted to UK HealthCare, where a team led by Dr. Justin Fraser coordinated her treatment.
"Mrs. Beasley's condition required immediate intervention, and the particulars of her case led us to use an older but less commonly employed approach to prevent the aneurysm from re-rupturing," Fraser said. In the hospital's state-of-the-art hybrid operating room, the only one of its kind in the region, he used a microscope to deploy a tiny metal clip that sealed off the aneurysm -- "kind of like a clip you use to close a bag of potato chips."
What followed for Traci was a period of "watchful waiting" for any complications. In her case, she did develop a condition called cerebral vasospasm -- a narrowing of the arteries that limits blood flow to vital brain tissue. A trip to the Angiography Suite corrected this restriction of blood supply to the brain and avoided what would certainly have been another devastating stroke. After a few more days of watchful waiting, Traci returned to her home in Anderson County to recuperate and was back in the classroom by Nov. 1.
Fraser emphasizes that CSC designation is not just a reflection of UK HealthCare's surgical expertise. "I stand here today as a member of a team -- a team that is worthy of this designation," he said. "It's not my hands versus another surgeon's hands, or our equipment versus the other institution's equipment, that makes UK HealthCare the first choice for stroke. It's a collaboration among UK HealthCare's many highly skilled team members that maximizes a patient's recovery."
"Weakness in an arm, or speech problems -- those are obvious neurological deficits caused by a stroke," Fraser said. "But our goal is to achieve a more elegant solution -- can the patient balance their checkbook? Can they follow a list at the grocery store? Can they return to work and a normal life? That's why we're here."