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Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Winchester Medical Center (WMC) is an Advanced Primary Stroke Center certified by the Joint Commission. Patients who receive treatment at a Primary Stroke Center have the best chance to survive a stroke and go on to have meaningful recovery. Residents of the Shenandoah Valley and beyond benefit from Valley Health’s advanced stroke care any time, day or night.

Rapid Identification of Stroke

From the time a patient arrives in any Valley Health hospital Emergency Department, our stroke team can provide diagnosis and treatment within minutes. The rapid, coordinated efforts of our team of physicians, nurses, and technicians quickly identify patients with symptoms of stroke and fast-track them to appropriate medical and surgical interventions.

Neurologists at Winchester Medical Center can even provide expert consultation via state-of-the-art video conferencing technology known as telestroke, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nearly half of the patients who receive treatment for stroke within 3 hours of symptom onset will experience little and sometimes no disability from stroke.

Signs of Stroke/Brain Attack:

  • Sudden Weakness/numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If any of these signs occur, CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY. Getting treatment within 60 minutes may prevent disability, and increase chances of survival. It may also facilitate the administration of the clot busting drug or a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy which utilizes various clot retrieval devices approved for stroke treatment in some patients.

Know Your Risk Factors

Most strokes are caused by the build-up of plaque in the arteries carrying blood to the brain. It is believed by many healthcare professionals that 80% of all strokes could be prevented. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke. Know your risk factors for stroke, and work with your physician who can guide you in making good choices to help decrease your risk.

Uncontrollable risk factors for stroke:

  • Age, for every decade over 55 years of age stroke risk increases
  • Gender, men have a slightly higher stroke risk than women
  • Family history, people with a family history of stroke are at risk for stroke themselves
  • Race, African Americans, and Hispanics have 2-3 times the stroke risk of most other ethnic groups
  • Previous TIA (mini-stroke) or stroke, more than 1/3 of people who have TIA’s will go on to have a stroke and if you already had a stroke you are up to 10 times more likely to have another.

Controllable risk factors for stroke:

  • High blood pressure is the single most controllable risk factor for stroke. Having high blood pressure increases stroke risk 4 to 6 times
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease and high cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that can increase stroke risk 4 to 6 times
  • Smoking doubles your risk for stroke
  • Excess weight makes people more likely to have other stroke risk factors

Advanced Imaging

Quick access to advanced diagnostic neuroimaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are essential to the stroke team in providing key information about the type of stroke the damage it has caused. This information is critical and helps define the course of treatment that is best for each patient.

Other sophisticated diagnostics tests, including angiography, transcranial doppler (TCD),electroencephalogram (EEG),echocardiogram, and carotid duplex are also important to assist the care team in prescribing ongoing treatment to prevent a stroke from reoccurring in the future.


Rehabilitation is an essential part of the treatment program for patients who have had a stroke. Each patient is evaluated by trained experts in physical, occupational, and speech therapy to determine an individualized plan for recovery. Many patients experience weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, learning difficulties, memory loss, vision changes, or emotional/behavioral changes as a result of stroke. These physical or psychosocial deficits can range from mild to severe depending on the size and location of the stroke in the brain.

Our team of rehab specialists will prescribe a course of treatment that will help each patient return to the highest possible level of function and independence. Rehabilitation is comprehensive, ranging from intense therapy in the hospital to outpatient rehabilitation. To learn more about the options available within Valley Health, click here.

Stroke Research

Winchester Medical Center was one of the facilities involved in the original ground-breaking clinical trial that determined the effectiveness of thrombolytic therapy for the treatment of acute ischemic stroke in 1996. Today, thrombolytic medications are still used to treat stroke and reduce permanent deficits associated with stroke in a significant number of patients. Valley Health and WMC continue to enroll in stroke-related clinical trials to help in the fight to reduce the devastating disability associated with this disease process. In many cases, patients who have received stroke care at our facility are included in advanced or investigational stroke therapies not always available at other stroke centers. Valley Health and Winchester Medical Center continue to deliver the most up-to-date standard of stroke care.

Community Outreach

One of the primary goals of the Valley Health Stroke Service is to help the members of our community prevent stroke before it occurs. On several occasions throughout the year, staff members from our stroke center provide educational and screening programs at little or no cost to the participant. Education is focused on individual risk factors, lifestyle changes to prevent stroke, early identification of symptoms of stroke, and immediately calling 911 or emergency medical services as soon as signs and symptoms occur.

For more information about the Valley Health Stroke Service, please contact:

Rhonda M. Ragan BSN, RN
Neuroscience Program Manager

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