UMMC Earns Primary Stroke Center Designation

For immediate release: December 27, 2004


Sharon Boston

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

The Medical Center is the first hospital in Maryland to receive this distinction

The University of Maryland Medical Center is the first hospital in the state to receive designation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a Primary Stroke Center. The designation shows that the Medical Center's stroke program meets JCAHO's rigorous new standards and performance measurements in caring for stroke patients and offering state-of-the-art treatments.

“This designation acknowledges the excellence of the entire stroke team, which includes doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, researchers and support staff,” explains Marian LaMonte, M.D., director of the Brain Attack Team at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

UM Medical Center sets the standard for stroke care, according to a University HealthSystem Consortium study.

“For this Primary Stroke Center designation, the JCAHO standards require hospitals to provide excellent patient care, including rapid assessment by a multi-disciplinary team, and the most advanced treatment with clot-busting medications. Another important ingredient is a commitment to educating area health care professionals and the general public about stroke risk factors and the need for rapid treatment,” adds Dr. LaMonte.

To receive designation as a Primary Stroke Center, the medical center's stroke program went through a rigorous application process and submitted data on stroke admissions, treatment plans and outcomes. A JCAHO representative visited the emergency department and patient care areas and conducted interviews with staff and patients.

“The University of Maryland Stroke Center has been a pioneer in comprehensive patient care and research. We developed one of the nation's first stroke centers and formed a Brain Attack Team in 1996, the first in the region, for rapid response in treating stroke patients,” says William Weiner, M.D., chief of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and professor and chairman of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Dr. Weiner adds, “We know that rapid treatment for stroke, particularly the use of clot-busting drugs, can save lives and reduce disability. However, these drugs can only be used within the first few hours after someone has a stroke ”“ that's why it's so critical to have a multidisciplinary team in place that can respond rapidly in these cases.”

The time a hospital takes to administer the drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is one of the critical measurements examined during the JCAHO evaluation. Hospitals need to show that they can rapidly diagnose stroke and then administer treatment within three hours after symptoms begin. Since 1996, more than 200 patients have received tPA therapy at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The stroke team also includes highly skilled neuroradiologists who can use the pathways of the arteries to bring the clot dissolving drug tPA directly into the brain.

Hospitals that receive Primary Stroke Center certification also must show that they are continually working to improve patient care and outcomes. The University of Maryland Brain Attack Team has developed innovative ways to allow more stroke patients to have access to the newest treatments. One example is a telemedicine link to community hospitals, enabling University of Maryland stroke specialists to see and speak with patients in “real time” and evaluate if they are candidates for the clot-busting therapies.

Another example of the stroke team's leadership is a first-of-its-kind, aggressive treatment plan for patients with Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). These “mini-strokes” are often a harbinger of a larger stroke. By recognizing and treating TIAs aggressively, larger, debilitating strokes may be prevented.

Hospitals earning Primary Stroke Center designation also must show a commitment to education. Physicians and nurses at the University of Maryland Stroke Center have made presentations to paramedics and other health care professionals, local and national groups and the general public to raise awareness about stroke prevention and the latest treatments.

“The mission of the University of Maryland Stroke Center has always been to prevent stroke and improve recovery from stroke through patient care, research and education,” says Barney Stern, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the clinical stroke program at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “The designation illustrates our continuing goal to provide the best quality care for patients.”

“We are proud to be the first hospital in Maryland to receive this prestigious designation as a Primary Stroke Center,” says Jeffrey A. Rivest, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center. “It is an example of our many innovative programs, led by physicians and staff who work with enthusiasm and creativity to provide the best possible care for our patients,” Rivest says.

“The University of Maryland Medical Center demonstrated that its stroke care program follows national standards and guidelines that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients,” says Charles A. Mowll, executive vice president, Business Development, Government and External Relations, Joint Commission.

Stroke, which strikes about 700,000 people in the U.S. each year, is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death. Warning signs of stroke include sudden onset of the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble with vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking or loss of balance
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

Patients with these symptoms should seek immediate medical assistance by calling 9-1-1.

For more information on stroke, go to


For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.