Stroke Center

Stroke, also known as “brain attack,” is a medical emergency requiring swift transportation to the nearest medical center and immediate medical treatment by the stroke team.

If you or a loved one comes to Cayuga Medical Center with signs of a stroke, you can take comfort in knowing that your medical center is a designated Stroke Center. This means that we meet the high standards of diagnosis and treatment prescribed by the American Stroke Association and the New York State Department of Health. You will find yourself instantly at the center of a multidisciplinary group of emergency physicians and nurses, neurologists, radiologists, neurosurgeons, intensivists, and rehabilitation specialists who are available to respond 24/7 in the Emergency Department for the evaluation and treatment of stroke patients.

The advantages of a designated Stroke Center.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country and the leading cause of disability: of those who survive, 90 percent have a neurological deficit. Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association have shown that patients treated at hospitals with Stroke Centers have reduced mortality rates, fewer complications, improved long-term outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction.

Code Grey

A Code Grey at Cayuga Medical Center calls the stroke response team into action and things happen very quickly. In the management of acute stroke, the pressing issue is time: our team has a three-hour window in which to administer thrombolytic agents to dissolve the clot blocking blood flow in the brain.

Local EMS responders start the process with their assessment of the patient in the field. As soon as the ambulance calls the Emergency Department, the response begins. Our CT imaging technologists prepare the CT scanner and call the radiologist to put him on stand-by alert. Everyone else on the stroke team assembles in the Emergency Department to be ready and waiting at the door to receive the patient.

Types of stroke and diagnostic imaging

There are two types of stroke” ischemic (caused by a clot or vessel narrowing that blocks blood flow in the brain) and hemorrhagic (caused by bleeding into the brain or an aneurysm that leaks or ruptures). By examining a CT scan of the brain, a radiologist can determine if the patient has, indeed, had a stroke and which type of stroke it is. If diagnosed in time, ischemic strokes can be treated with thrombolytic (clot-busting) medication to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow in the brain. Additional brain imaging studies can be helpful to determine the extent of the impact of the stroke on the brain.

As soon as the initial CT images are taken, they are transmitted to the radiologist for immediate interpretation. The brain attack protocols set by the New York State Department of Health require than no more than 20 minutes elapse between the time the patient reaches the CT table and the time the radiologist submits his report to the stroke team. At Cayuga Medical Center, our interpretation time is less than half that time.

How to recognize a stroke

Signs and symptoms of stroke usually occur suddenly and may include:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing from one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe, unexplained headache, especially of sudden onset

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital – your symptoms could get worse while you’re driving.

Risk factors for stroke you can change with your doctor’s help

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • Carotid and other artery disease
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Illegal drug use
  • Transient ischemic attacks
  • Certain blood disorders
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Stroke Team Medical Director

The Stroke Team at Cayuga Medical Center is under the direction of Dr. Susan Cowdery, a board-certified neurologist.

More information

For more information on NYS Department of Health Designated Stroke Centers, click here.

About Cayuga Medical Center

We are a not-for-profit, acute-care medical center bringing state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services to the residents of Tompkins, Cortland, Seneca, and Tioga counties. And a century after our founding, we remain intrinsically tied to those we serve: our corporate membership includes representatives from over 100 community organizations. At Cayuga Medical Center, we believe that hospitals are shaped by the people they serve


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