American Heart Associatin, American Stroke Associaation - Comprehensive Stroke Center Colorado

Colorado's First Comprehensive Stroke Center

Swedish Medical Center is the first Stroke Center four-times certified by The Joint Commission as a Comprehensive Stroke Center in the state and the Rocky Mountain region. Learn more>>

Signs of a stroke

If you think someone is suffering from a stroke, think FAST and do the following:

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise up?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

TIME IS BRAIN. If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, do not delay in seeking medical attention. The only immediate therapies for stroke are time sensitive, so call 911.

60 percent of stroke symptoms are recognized by someone other than the person experiencing the stroke – someone like you – so remember to think FAST!

What is a stroke?

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time and is a “brain attack”, meaning blood flow to an area of the brain gets cut off. The cells in the affected area of the brain do not get oxygen and start to die off. Abilities controlled by this area of the brain, such as muscle control or memory, can be lost.

As 30,000 brain cells die each second during a stroke, medical personnel needs to intervene as quickly as possible to stop the stroke and limit any damage.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This blood clot may have formed in one of the arteries that supplies blood to your brain (called thrombus). A blood clot may also form in another part of the body (often in the heart) and becomes stuck in one of the narrow brain arteries (embolus).

When blood flow is blocked to the brain, brain cells begin to die in a matter of minutes. This is why rapid treatment for stroke is so crucial.

Ischemic Stroke Treatments at The Swedish Neurovascular Center

The Swedish Neurovascular Center offers cutting-edge treatment for ischemic stroke. Clot-busting drugs (Tissue Plasminogen Activator, tPA) can be used to restore blood flow to the brain. In more severe cases, our neurosurgeons use surgical thrombectomy or endovascular “inside the artery” treatment to remove the blood clot, utilizing our state-of-the-art biplane surgical suite, which provides superior visualization to our surgeons. Swedish’s Dr. Donald Frei was featured in the Wall Street Journal about thrombectomy use for ischemic stroke treatment.

Our experts are also actively involved in clinical trials to help advance treatments for ischemic stroke.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks. This damage to the blood vessel may occur as a result of uncontrolled high blood pressure, weakened blood vessel walls (aneurysms), abnormal tangle of thin-walled blood vessels (arteriovenous malformation) or as a result of overuse of blood thinner medication. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischemic strokes but are often more fatal.

The hemorrhagic stroke can occur as an intracerebral hemorrhage in which the bleeding occurs within the brain; a subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when bleeding happens between the brain and the membranes that cover it.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatments at The Swedish Neurovascular Center

A hemorrhagic stroke requires immediate treatment. At The Swedish Neurovascular Center, this may include decompression surgery, craniotomy with open surgical, simple aspiration, endoscopic evacuation, stereotactic evacuation, clipping or coiling procedures. Additionally, The Swedish Neurovascular Center also offers a minimally invasive integrated surgical approach to access and remove the leaked blood. This technology gives unique access to the surgical site by moving through the brain’s folds and tracts through an opening only about the size of a dime. Our physicians are highly skilled in performing these very delicate and precise treatments.

What makes Swedish the top choice for stroke care?

We care for more stroke patients more quickly than any other hospital in Colorado. Review our Stroke Data Report.

  • Our STROKE ALERT system: When we know a stroke patient is on the way, a "Stroke Alert" is issued so that our dedicated stroke team, including a neurologist, dedicated stroke advanced practice nurse and CT technician, can meet stroke patients arriving by ambulance at the door of the ER to assess the patient and begin appropriate treatment right away.
  • We coordinate with EMS providers in Denver: When EMS providers see a person experiencing signs and symptoms of stroke, they know to call ahead to notify Swedish of the potential stroke patient so that we can activate our "Stroke Alert" and be waiting for the patient, ready to begin treatment.
  • Our dedicated AirLife stroke air transport team: These professionals are truly only a "phone call away" to provide rapid transport to Swedish from hospitals all over the western region.
  • We offer “round-the-clock coverage by an interventional neuro-radiologist: These specialized physicians from our interventional radiology department can place catheters in a patient's artery to remove a blood clot that is causing a stroke. There are other procedures they do to repair arteries in the brain as well. These physicians work quickly with the neurologists to assess if a procedure to mechanically remove a clot in the brain is possible. State-of-the-art devices can be used to remove blood clots from the brain in eligible patients. Swedish participates in several clinical trials related to the use of these devices and catheters in acute stroke.
  • Nurses and rehabilitation therapists (such as a physical therapist) who specialize in stroke and participate in continuing education for stroke care.
  • Our Acute Rehabilitation Unit: Specializes in acute neurological, stroke and trauma rehabilitation therapies. The professionals on this unit are experts in providing a "robust" therapy plan for each patient to help them during stroke recovery and go home as soon as possible.
  • Our CO-DOC program: State-of-the-art technology that uses telemedicine to deliver expert stroke diagnosis and treatment to stroke patients throughout Colorado.
  • Swedish' partners with leading community organizations for stroke- related research studies.
"The one thing that amazed me was once I arrived at Swedish Medical Center, it didn’t take more than five minutes for the stroke team to know what to do. I remember thinking, this is how my life is going to be from now on, but with the quick thinking and excellent care, I woke up several hours later completely normal! I feel so thankful for the great staff here at Swedish."
Jeff, 46-year-old stroke patient

Coordinated care provides expert stroke treatment for the best outcomes

Our experienced and specially trained team extends to intensivists, hospitalists, neuro-radiologists and interventionalists, neurosurgeons, CCU nurses, dedicated neurology nurses, rehabilitation nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and case managers, all of whom provide care for patients during recovery.

Learn how the expert team at Swedish’s Stroke Center saved Mandy Banks’ life.

Evidence shows that it is a multidisciplinary team as Swedish has that improves patient outcomes. Our data demonstrates that our outcomes are better than other hospitals as we rapidly treat stroke, prevent complications during recovery, provide intensive rehabilitation therapies and create a plan with patients to prevent another stroke.