Idaho Falls, Idaho – Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center recently achieved Advanced Certification in Primary Stroke and, in conjunction with The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, was awarded the Gold Seal of Approval by The Joint Commission.

That’s important, because large numbers of people in EIRMC’s service area suffer strokes every year, 175 in the past year alone. But far fewer got the optimal help they could have gotten if their loved ones or coworkers had recognized the signs and reacted faster, accentuating missed opportunities.

Access to a diagnostic and treatment hospital with Primary Stroke designation is a first for residents and visitors of the community and region. EIRMC is the first and only hospital in all of eastern Idaho, western Wyoming, southeastern Montana and northern Utah to achieve the elite distinction. (In Idaho, only St. Alphonsus in Boise also holds Primary Stroke certification.)

Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death and a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States.  That’s because the window between onset of stroke symptoms and efficacy of treatment is relatively short, and too often, key warning signs are missed or ignored until it is too late for the best and least invasive interventions to work, such as IV therapy (tPA) or interventional therapy (delivery of meds inside the brain, directly to the site of the blockage).

Saving lives and preserving quality of life is why EIRMC invested in becoming a Primary Stroke Center in the first place, and why it is committed to improving regional knowledge about  the warning signs and the action to take when they appear.

Media Opportunity

EIRMC recently invited the media to visit the Stroke Center’s interventional radiology suite where they were able to:

  • Learn the difference between an ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke
  • Learn when the window of time for the most effective treatment opens and closes
  • See and capture images of the brain, with both ischemic activity (a clot) and hemorrhagic activity (a rupture).
  • See how highly-specialized equipment is used for the rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke. 
  • Interview medical experts including interventional radiologists, neurologists, and emergency and rehab physicians involved in a coordinated Stroke Response Timeline, as they discuss their respective roles, recent advancements and stroke risk factors.
  • Interview two former EIRMC stroke patients ¾ one who received clot-melting treatment within the optimal window of opportunity (because her husband recognized the symptoms), and one who did not.  The latter is now receiving rehabilitative therapy at EIRMC to restore full function and quality of life.  Both are success stories in their own ways, and each has an important message to share about the importance of knowledge and fast action.
  • Talk with rehabilitative therapists about innovative new therapies to help patients return to active, healthy lives.

EIRMC's goal is to educate readers/viewers why it is important to:

  • Know the signs of stroke.
  • Get help immediately (911)
  • And go to the best place possible for treatment. 

In Eastern Idaho, Western Wyoming, Southern Montana, and Northern Utah, the best place for treatment is EIRMC, as established by achievement of Primary Stroke Center Certification.  It signifies that EIRMC has exerted exceptional effort to improve stroke treatment; invested in life-saving diagnostic and treatment equipment; and consistently provides each critical element in the care continuum necessary to optimally care for stroke patients. These elements combine for a coordinated Stroke Team Response that ensures the best possible outcome for stroke patients.

“This achievement is good news for us and the patients,” says Dr. Erich Garland, a neurologist at EIRMC, and a driving force behind the 18-month verification process. “But time lost is brain lost.”

Dr. Garland and Dr. Chris Harker, one of five interventional radiologists at EIRMC, stress that stroke is a medical emergency and immediate care yields the opportunity for a wider array of treatment options at EIRMC, including administering the IV clot-busting medicine, t-PA, or delivering medication directly into the brain at the site of the clot, as well as other surgical and non-surgical interventions.

Doug Crabtree, CEO, says, “What I’ve learned is that if you have a stroke, you probably aren’t going to be able to save yourself.  Most times, you are going to have to depend on the people around you, who may even be strangers, to notice and get you some help.”

Crabtree continued, “It’s a myth that stroke happens only to old people, but regardless, the ability to spot warning signs fast is something that people of all ages need to learn, so they are prepared to help a co-worker, a grandparent, a neighbor.”

EMS personnel and Drs. Garland and Harker agree, “The patient usually doesn’t know what’s happening, and because there is no pain, they don’t realize it’s a medical emergency.  It’s the people around them that need to know what to do.”