The evolution of stroke care: Q&A with Dr. Jason Tarpley
In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies of stroke every four minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the past decade, however, the care of stroke has been transformed. Specialists can offer a range of treatments for both ischemic stroke, the kind that is caused by a blood clot in the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke, which involves bleeding in the brain. The key is rapid treatment at a hospital that specializes in stroke treatment and recovery. We asked Jason Tarpley, MD, PhD, to explain how stroke patients can get the best possible care.
Are most people aware of stroke warning signs?
“People recognize the symptoms more and more. The word is getting out, especially in the South Bay. That is partly because we’re an excellent, top-tier comprehensive stroke center and because of the volume of stroke patients.”
Do stroke patients have a better chance today of fully recovering?
“Yes. The progress is amazing. It’s such a fun field of practice. It’s nothing like it was 10 years ago. We have all kinds of procedures to treat both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. And it’s still changing. There is an amazing amount of innovation. We’re going to do six clinical trials in 2020—all targeting new advances in therapy.”
What symptoms should people be aware of?
“The two different kinds of stroke present in different ways. The bleeding—hemorrhagic—stroke presents with sudden-onset headache. It can be accompanied by changes in mental status or a complete coma. An ischemic stroke is generally painless and presents with focal symptoms, such as weakness, language problems, facial droop or vision changes.”
What should you do if you think you or someone else is having a stroke?
“I had a patient ask me that the other day. He said, If I recognize any of these symptoms can I drive to the hospital? I said, No, you should call 911. They will get you to the most appropriate comprehensive stroke center.”
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center is the only hospital in the South Bay to carry the distinction of Comprehensive Stroke Certification by The Joint Commission. Why should that matter to patients?
“Providence Health Systems continues to rely on The Joint Commission accreditation and certification progess which is the gold standard for more than 19,000 health care organizations throughout the world. The certification we have from The Joint Commission is the highest and most difficult certification a hospital can obtain. You need the most resources—vascular neurology, neurointerventional surgery, neurosurgery and neurocritical care. No matter how complex the case is, we have to be available and working all the time.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, are people afraid to seek stroke care?
“A recent study suggests people are delaying seeking care for stroke-related symptoms since the start of the pandemic. This is unfortunate. The medical center takes multiple precautions to keep patients protected from COVID-19 transmission in the hospital.
Stroke symptoms should always be considered an emergency. Any delay in seeking care can result in greater neurological damage.”
What do you enjoy about being part of the medical center's stroke team?
“The best things are the patients. Having a lot of patients means we are extremely busy. We’re doing cases all the time. The other thing I like is how our team works together. I have not seen this in other hospitals. Everyone works together collaboratively to ensure we provide the most comprehensive care and achieve the best outcomes.”
To learn more about the Stroke and Neurosciences services at Providence Little Company of Mary, please visit providence.org/locations/plcm-torrance/stroke-and-neurosciences.