Colorado Springs is home to many gems: Garden of the Gods. Pikes Peak. The Air Force Academy. The U.S. Olympic Training Center. And terrific medical care for any person who is having a stroke.

Dialing 911 when you or someone you know is having a stroke should be automatic. Any delay in making that call could be detrimental. The longer it takes to receive treatment after stroke symptoms arise, the more likely it is that a person will suffer loss of everyday abilities.

Strokes run the gamut when it comes to loss – they can cause death or no harm at all. In between, there’s a whole list of things that a stroke can take: speech; movement; memory; the ability to form thoughts. No one wants to gamble those gifts.

Residents in the Pikes Peak region are so fortunate. We don’t have to travel for the most advanced stroke care. In smaller towns, the choice is almost always to go to another city for the appropriate care; in a metropolis, heavy traffic halts ambulances, causing delays in care.

UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central is southern Colorado’s only certified Comprehensive Stroke Center – the most prestigious status that a stroke program can earn. Having the most advanced stroke care in Colorado Springs is a gem all its own.

What does it mean, though?

Professional building photo of UCHealth Memorial Hospital CentralNo other hospital in southern Colorado can provide the level of care for a patient having a stroke. There’s never a doubt about whether a neurosurgeon skilled in the most advanced stroke treatment is on duty at Memorial Central. The differences between a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center (CSC) and other programs are significant.

A Comprehensive Stroke Center treats all kinds of strokes – ischemic, when there is a blood clot in the brain; and hemorrhagic, when there’s bleeding in the brain, including complex cases that require advanced treatment. According to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, people with hemorrhagic strokes (brain bleeding) are more likely to survive if they are treated at a CSC.

A Comprehensive Stroke Center is required to have advanced imaging capabilities, including CT angiography, CT perfusion and Transcranial Doppler. This exceptional technology helps specially-trained neurosurgeons, who are required in a CSC to be available 24/7/365, to do sophisticated endovascular procedures such as a thrombectomy and lytic therapy for an acute ischemic stroke, coiling and clipping of aneurysms, and direct delivery of lytic therapy to the site of the occlusion.

Here’s how it works:

Thrombectomyis used in some cases when a person suffers an ischemic stroke. A surgeon threads a catheter that has a sucking tool on its tip through an artery in the groin and up through the vascular system to the clot in the brain and removes the clot. Lytic therapy is the administration of drugs called lytics or “clot busters” to dissolve blood clots that have acutely (suddenly) blocked a person’s major arteries or veins and pose potentially serious or life-threatening implications. Coilingis used to treat patients who have a brain aneurysm, when a bulge in a blood vessel of the brain has ruptured or is at risk for rupturing. A highly-skilled physician threads a catheter through an artery in the groin and, using x-ray imaging and a special dye to show the blood vessel, guides the catheter to the site of the aneurysm. The surgeon will then place small coils inside the aneurysm. A beneficial clot will form around the coils, preventing blood flow to the aneurysm and reducing the risk of rupture. Clipping occurs when a neurosurgeon opens the skull and places a tiny clip across the neck of the aneurysm to stop or prevent the aneurysm from bleeding. The procedure is intended to restore normal circulation.

For every minute that a stroke is left untreated, the typical patient loses 1.9 million neurons. That’s brain power. The longer it takes to get treatment – the bigger the gamble and risk of losing precious human ability.

Providing these sophisticated treatments is not where the care stops in a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Such centers are required to have a dedicated neuro Intensive Care Unit with expert neuro critical care physicians available 24/7; participate in active ongoing clinical trials to enhance stroke outcomes internationally and nationally and provide specialized education and competencies for staff. Importantly, comprehensive care for stroke patients can save lives.

In recent years, public awareness campaigns have done a great job of encouraging people to seek care immediately if they are having a stroke. Phrases like “time is brain,’’ and an acronym to help people recognize stroke symptoms – F.A.S.T. – have become more and more familiar.

F – Facial drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911

Colorado Springs is fortunate. We have Garden of the Gods. Pikes Peak. The Air Force Academy. The U.S. Olympic Training Center. And, now, a Comprehensive Stroke Center – a gem all its own.

About the author

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Erin Emery
Editor and Writer at

Erin Emery is an editor and writer for UCHealth Today, an online publication and hub for medical news, patient stories and innovation in medicine.