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When minutes count, trust our stroke care

Rapid-response treatment for stroke offers the greatest chance for recovery and reduces the risk of permanent brain damage. Our hospitals have long been recognized as leaders in stroke care. Tower Health has four Primary Stroke Centers (PSC) to serve people in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Our Brandywine Hospital, Pottstown Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital, and Chestnut Hill Hospital, as well as our Advanced Primary Stroke Center at Reading Hospital, are fully equipped and staffed to provide state-of-the-art rapid evaluation and treatment of stroke. Here’s what makes us different:

  • The Rapid Response Stroke Alert team at Reading Hospital has outcomes in the top 5 percent nationally
  • Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, and Neurointerventional Radiologists are available 24/7 
  • We have the 24/7 expertise to administer intravenous tPA (medicine to break up a blood clot)
  • We focus on rapid response in a 24-hour "window of opportunity" for advanced mechanical intervention 
Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission logo

The Joint Commission Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Reading Hospital is certified as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission.
American Heart Association Stroke award logo

American Heart Association and American Stroke Association

Tower Health hospitals have been awarded the Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Quality Achievement & Stroke Elite Honor Roll Awards.
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Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission logo

The Joint Commission Primary Stroke Centers

Brandywine Hospital, Pottstown Hospital, Phoenixville Hospital, and Chestnut Hill Hospital

Certified Stroke Centers

To become a certified Advanced Primary Care Stroke Center, organizations meet standardized performance and clinical quality measures and undergo an onsite certification review.

Here’s how Reading Hospital achieved The Joint Commission Advanced Primary Stroke Center designation:

  • Program Medical Director. Our team is led by a medical director with extensive cerebrovascular expertise.
  • Advanced imaging capabilities. Our hospital offers 24/7 imaging for stroke care, including computed tomography, computed tomography angiography, computed tomography perfusion, and stroke magnetic resonance imaging. We also perform cranial and cardiac ultrasounds when needed.
  • 24/7 Stroke Specialists. Our best-in-class team provides the advanced care needed for complex stroke and aneurysm cases.
  • Vascular neurologists. Our experts offer a rapid evaluation (bedside or tele) to identify acute stroke symptoms and collaborate with other specialists to determine treatment.
  • Neuroradiologists. Specialists provide expert interpretation of advanced brain imaging and timely communication to our vascular neurologist to assist with emergent treatment decisions.
  • Neurointerventionalists. Using minimally invasive techniques, our team quickly removes blood clots from brain vessels and restores blood flow to preserve brain tissue.
  • Vascular Neurosurgeons. Specializing in treating blood vessel abnormalities, such as an aneurysm (a bulging in an artery), our team performs precise surgical procedures to clip or coil the aneurysm to reduce the risk of further bleeding.
  • Neurointensivists. Our experts specialize in acute brain disorders and treat life-threatening medical complications that are impacted by a stroke. These can include the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
  • Dedicated Neuro Intensive Care Unit. With 24/7, Neuro-specialized intensivist service providing advanced multimodality monitoring.
  • Dedicated stroke unit. Our hospital brings together Hospitalists, specialty trained nurses, and other care providers with experience in stroke care.

Here’s how Brandywine, Pottstown, Phoenixville, and Chestnut Hill Hospitals achieved The Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center designation:

  • Standardized method for delivering care centered on evidence-based guidelines for stroke care
  • Program Medical Director with experience in cerebrovascular disease
  • Acute stroke team available 24/7 and at the bedside within 15 minutes
  • Emergency Medical Services collaboration and access to protocols
  • Designate stroke unit or designated beds for the care of acute stroke patients
  • Emergency department collaboration with the initial assessment
  • Advanced imaging available 24/7, and cardiac imaging when appropriate
  • 24/7 neurology expertise in person or through telemedicine
  • Neurosurgical services within two hours of consultation
  • Operating rooms available 24/7
  • Collaboration with EMS and community outreach

Stroke Awards & Accreditation

Tower Health hospitals are committed to providing the highest quality care — and it shows. Our national accreditations and certifications show we meet the most stringent patient care guidelines. That means you can be confident you’re receiving care from a trusted, skilled team.
View All Stroke Awards & Accreditation

What is a stroke?

The words stroke, cerebrovascular accident (CVA), and brain attack all mean the same thing. Just like a heart attack, a stroke or brain attack can change a person’s life in a matter of minutes. During a stroke, blood, oxygen, and nutrients stop flowing to an area of the brain. This happens when blood vessels get blocked or break open. Without blood flow, oxygen cannot reach the brain cells, and it’s only a matter of minutes before those cells may die and cause permanent damage.

Why is stroke an emergency?

In the management of acute stroke, Time is Brain. A stroke is a “brain attack.” During a brain attack, blood carrying oxygen and nutrients stops flowing to an area of the brain. This happens when blood vessels get blocked or break open. The brain cells cannot work without oxygen. When blood flow is lost for more than several minutes, brain tissue around the area dies. When brain tissue dies, the part of the body controlled by this area of the brain also will not work. 

When the brain cells do not work or die, the part of the body controlled by these cells will not work either and can cause a loss of function in those other parts of the body. This can result in permanent disability and, in some cases, death.

What are my risk factors for stroke?

A stroke can happen at any time and any age. But, if you have risk factors, your chance of having a stroke increase. Some risk factors cannot be changed. Yet, some risk factors can be improved and will help lower your future chances of having a stroke.

Learn about the risk factors that you can change to help prevent a stroke.

Risk Factors You Can Change

TIAs-Transient Ischemic Attacks. A blood clot blocks a blood vessel for a short time. You may experience fleeting  stroke symptoms. These are warning signs that a major stroke may be coming. If you have a history of TIAs, you are almost ten times more likely to have a major stroke. 
What you can do:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Learn about lifestyle changes to prevent a stroke
  • Talk with your provider

High Blood Pressure. Monitor your blood pressure. Your top number is the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats. This number should be less than 130. The bottom number is the pressure in your arteries when the heart rests. This number should be less than 80.
To improve your blood pressure:

  • See your doctor regularly

  • Monitor your blood pressure regularly

  • Take medicines as ordered

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Exercise regularly

  • Follow a healthy meal plan

 

Heart Disease. Blocked blood vessels can lead to a heart attack. And untreated heart rhythm problems can lead to a stroke.
To improve your heart health:

  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take medicines as ordered.
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress.

Smoking. Tobacco products damage the artery wall and speed up plaque formation. Tobacco also reduces your HDL (good cholesterol) and can make blood clots form.
Get the help you need to quit tobacco:

  • Get help to quit.
  • Smoking cessation counseling or classes are available.
  • Call the Pennsylvania Quitline toll free at 1-800-784-8669.

Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you are at a greater risk for a stroke. Diabetes makes plaque form faster in blood vessels and raises cholesterol and triglycerides. It also causes good cholesterol (HDL) to decrease.
Take the steps to improve your diabetes:

  • Monitor and control high blood sugar.
  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Enroll in diabetes education classes. Call your doctor for a referral.

High Blood Cholesterol. High cholesterol contributes to hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. Keep your cholesterol in a healthy range. Aim for a total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL. Your good cholesterol (HDL) level should be above 35mg/dL, and your bad cholesterol (LDL) level should be less than 100 mg/dL. A good goal for triglycerides is less than 150mg/dL.
Lower your cholesterol:

  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take cholesterol-lowering medicines as directed by your doctor.
Carotid Bruit. Partly blocked carotid arteries in the neck cause noise when listened for with a stethoscope. This is called a bruit. If you have a bruit, you may need further tests to determine the level of blockage.

Stay proactive with your health:

Types of strokes

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic (Blockage)

Most common type of stroke. Caused by blood not reaching the brain due to a buildup of fat (plaque) on the inside of blood vessels.

  • Blood clot (thrombus) blocks the blood vessel.
  • Brain tissue beyond the blockage dies.
    • A thrombus is a blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel. Fatty deposits called plaque form on the inside wall of the vessels. Over time, more plaque continues to form, making a narrow path for blood flow. When the path for blood flow is completely blocked, a stroke occurs.
    • Sometimes a clot or piece of plaque can break off and flow into the blood stream. This is called an embolus. If this clot gets stuck in the vessel, it will stop the blood flow. A stroke will occur.
Hemorrhagic (Bleeding)

Blood vessels become damaged due to plaque, high blood pressure, and/or smoking.

  • Damaged blood vessels in the brain may weaken and burst.
  • Blood spills into areas of the brain, killing tissue.
    • An aneurysm is an abnormal balloonlike pouch that develops on a brain artery. This pouch can burst and cause blood to leak in and around the brain.

How is a stroke diagnosed?

Timing is very important. To find out if you had a stroke and what treatment is best, you may have several tests.

  • CAT Scan. One of the first tests that will be performed. It gives the doctor details about the location, cause, and extent of the brain injury.
  • MRI. This image is more detailed than a CAT scan. It may be needed to show deep or small brain injuries.
  • Angiography. Dye is injected into the blood vessels of the brain.
  • Carotid Ultrasound. Helps to measure the amount of blockage in the carotid arteries that take blood to the brain.
  • Cardiac Ultrasound. Measures the size of your heart chambers, thickness of the heart muscle, blood flow speed, and direction to determine if any heart valves are narrowing or leaking.

Find a Tower Health Laboratory location.

Stroke Treatment

Rapid response and treatment is critical for the best possible outcome. Acute stroke treatments are aimed at dissolving or retrieving blood clots that block blood flow to portions of the brain. Our goal is to have a physician specialist examine you within minutes of arrival at one of our Tower Health Emergency Departments.

Stroke Rehabilitation

Our CARF-accredited stroke rehabilitation program, offered at Reading Hospital, is customized to fit each patient and family. The stroke rehabilitation team is led by Dr. Mark Chai, Medical Director, who is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

This experienced team works with the patient and the family to identify goals and develop a dynamic treatment plan to improve the following:

  • Weakness and/or paralysis
  • Balance and coordination
  • Language and swallowing
  • Activities of daily living
  • Memory, thinking, attention, and learning
  • Emotional issue
Cindy True
Cindy True was enjoying an afternoon with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren when laughter and conversation turned into confused speech. Cindy was having a stroke.
Because Cindy had experienced transient ischemic attacks (TIA) in the past, it was important for her to get to Reading Hospital’s Advanced Primary Stroke Center immediately. Fortunately for Cindy, the stroke team quickly administered clot busting tPA medication and performed a minimally invasive, specialized procedure to remove the clot. Reading Hospital is the only hospital in Berks County to perform this procedure. She is grateful to the team for their care that led to her full recovery.
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