Why choose UCLA Health for stroke care?
The UCLA Health Comprehensive Stroke Center is among the leading centers worldwide for stroke care and research. We offer comprehensive, state-of-the-art treatment for all types of strokes and conditions affecting blood flow to and within the brain.
Additional highlights of our program include:
National recognition: Our program has achieved national recognition as a leader in stroke care from the University Health Consortium. We are also a designated Specialized Program of Transitional Research in Acute Stroke (SPOTRIAS) Center, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). These designations mean our team of experts offers exceptional, research-driven stroke care.
Highest-quality care: We are the only stroke center in Los Angeles County designated as a Joint Commission Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center. This recognition means we meet the highest national standards for quality and safety.
Comprehensive services: Our stroke specialists work with experts in emergency medicine, neurosurgery, interventional neuroradiology, neurointensive care, stereotactic radiology, neuroanesthesiology and rehabilitation neurology. Our specialists offer inpatient and outpatient services so that patients can access the full spectrum of stroke care.
Emphasis on research: Our strong research emphasis means we offer patients the most promising, latest treatment approaches. Our clinicians continually learn more about the best stroke treatments and use their knowledge in real time to improve care.
History of innovation: UCLA Health’s dedicated acute stroke unit was the first of its kind in California and one of the first in the nation. We have developed leading therapies that are now used worldwide, including specific clot-busting medicines. Also, we were the first medical system in the western United States to offer a mobile stroke unit.
Our programs and services
We treat patients through the entire spectrum of care. Our services include:
UCLA Health Stroke Center: We coordinate each patient’s care from the first moment of contact, whether through the emergency department or an outpatient clinic. An entire team in the Stroke Center collaborates to treat patients, from emergency intervention to rehabilitation.
Emergency care: Our Brain Attack Team provides 24/7 emergency stroke treatments. When a patient comes to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with a stroke, they are admitted to our dedicated, state-of-the-art acute stroke unit. Our team immediately starts treatment to reduce brain damage as much as possible.
UCLA Health Mobile Stroke Unit: We were the first health care system in the western United States offering a mobile stroke unit. This unit is part of the Arline and Henry Gluck Stroke Rescue Program, which expands care access for patients in Los Angeles County. The mobile unit is an ambulance with special equipment for managing stroke. It includes a mobile CT scanner, lab tests, telehealth connection to a hospital and emergency medications. Research shows that the sooner patients receive stroke care, the better their health outcomes. We partner with local fire departments and emergency medical services as part of the 911 emergency response system.
UCLA Health Stroke and Vascular Neurology Outpatient Clinic: We provide comprehensive care for cerebrovascular conditions. Our specialists evaluate, diagnose and treat all types of disorders that affect the brain’s blood vessels or blood flow.
Edie Baskin Bronson and Richard Skip Bronson Cerebral Blood Flow Laboratory: Specialists in the cerebral blood flow lab use advanced imaging tools to evaluate blood flow in the brain. The equipment in the laboratory is portable, so we can also use it in the operating room, emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU). Our laboratory is one of the busiest clinical and research labs of its kind in the world.
UCLA Health TeleStroke Program: We offer direct, immediate video stroke consultations to emergency departments at community hospitals. We work with local neurologists to offer coverage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This service gives emergency departments across the country access to our certified, world-class stroke center and services.
Types of strokes and vascular neurology conditions we treat
The vascular neurology team treats a wide variety of conditions. Our stroke specialists treat:
Ischemic stroke occurs when there’s a sudden blockage in one of the blood vessels supplying blood to your brain. An ischemic stroke often happens when a blood clot forms in one of these blood vessels. This type of stroke accounts for 87% of all strokes.
Hemorrhagic stroke is far less common. It occurs when there’s sudden bleeding in the brain, often from a burst artery or bulge in one of the brain’s blood vessels (aneurysm).
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a sudden, temporary interruption of blood flow in the brain. It causes stroke-like symptoms, but a TIA is not a stroke. Instead, it can warn of an impending stroke. TIAs may be treated with medications or lifestyle changes to help improve blood flow in the brain.
Our vascular neurologists (stroke doctors) also provide treatment for any condition that affects blood flow in the brain (cerebrovascular conditions). Additional common cerebrovascular conditions include:
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a cluster or tangle of blood vessels. It may cause bleeding in the brain, seizures or stroke-like symptoms.
Brain aneurysm is an irregular bulge in one of the brain’s blood vessels. It typically doesn’t cause symptoms. But if an aneurysm bursts, it can cause bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).
Carotid artery stenosis is narrowing in the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain (carotid arteries). The carotid arteries are located on both sides of the neck. Often, a buildup of a fatty substance (plaque) causes the narrowing. Over time, the plaque can harden and lead to a condition called atherosclerosis.
Cavernous hemangioma is an abnormal cluster of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) connecting veins and arteries. The mass may cause seizures, vision changes or other stroke-like symptoms such as slurred speech or muscle weakness.
Dural arteriovenous fistula is an AVM that occurs in the thick tissue that covers the brain (dura mater). It may form after an injury or infection. A dural arteriovenous fistula may cause vision changes, ringing in the ears or headaches.
Moyamoya disease is a rare disorder in which the carotid arteries narrow or become blocked for unknown reasons. Carotid artery blockages can cause disruptions in blood flow that lead to a stroke.
What are the signs of a stroke?
Strokes require emergency treatment. If you notice stroke symptoms in yourself or another person, call 911 right away.
Strokes can cause confusion, headaches or difficulty walking. You can also use the acronym F.A.S.T. to help you remember the common signs of a stroke and the importance of seeking help:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech slurring
- Time to call 911
Tests and treatments stroke specialists offer
Our stroke team uses the full range of diagnostic tools and treatment options to provide care efficiently and effectively. We aim to diagnose a stroke or cerebrovascular problem as quickly as possible so we can deliver accurate, timely treatments.
Diagnostic tests tell specialists about stroke location and severity. We use a full range of diagnostic tools, including:
Los Angeles Paramedic Stroke Screen (LAPSS) is a three-minute screening test that allows emergency responders to identify a stroke quickly. This test, developed at UCLA Health, can shorten the time to treatment by an average of 90 minutes.
Imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, provide detailed brain images.
CT or MRI angiograms allow specialists to view blood flow in the brain.
Doppler sonography (carotid ultrasound) uses sound waves to view the carotid arteries. Blocked carotid arteries can cause a stroke.
Heart tests, such as an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram, can help determine if changes in the heart’s valves or rhythm could have led to a stroke.
Emergency stroke treatments
When treating a stroke, minutes matter. Usually, the first line of treatment is emergency interventions to reduce damage in the brain. Emergency treatments may include:
Clot-busting medicines: These medications break up clots from an ischemic stroke and reduce brain damage. Clot-busting medicines work most effectively when given within three hours of the start of a stroke.
Clot-retrieval device: This device quickly removes blood clots. Using a small, hollow tube (catheter) threaded through the blocked blood vessel, a stroke specialist places the
device near the clot. When in position, the device attaches to the clot and pulls it out. Stroke specialists often use the device along with clot-busting medicines.
Medicines to reduce brain swelling: Stroke specialists may give drugs intravenously (through an IV) to reduce brain swelling. These medications can be especially effective after a hemorrhagic stroke.
Medicines to protect the brain: Also called neuroprotective medicines, these drugs protect the brain from lack of oxygen and further damage.
Life support measures: Patients may need help breathing with a ventilator. Or they may need IV fluids, nutrition or help managing blood pressure.
Craniotomy: A neurosurgeon may perform this brain surgery to relieve pressure in the brain, stop bleeding or remove blood clots.
Stroke prevention and vascular neurology treatments
We also provide a range of treatments to prevent stroke in high-risk patients or treat other conditions affecting blood flow in the brain. Treatments include:
Medicines: Some patients may benefit from blood-thinning medications, such as anticoagulants (warfarin or Coumadin®) or antiplatelets (aspirin). Others may also take drugs to control blood pressure or cholesterol or to manage heart conditions.
Neurovascular surgery: Some surgeries can help reduce stroke risk. Surgeons may perform a carotid endarterectomy to remove plaque from the carotid artery. They may place a small tube (stent) to keep the carotid artery open. Patients may also have surgery to repair an aneurysm or close a part of the heart called the left atrial appendage to reduce stroke risk.
Interventional neurovascular surgery: Interventional procedures use small, hollow tubes (catheters) and tiny tools to close or open blood vessels. We may use these procedures to treat other cerebrovascular conditions such as growths in the blood vessels (vascular malformations) or brain tumors.
Stereotactic radiosurgery: This treatment uses safe doses of radiation to target abnormal clusters of blood vessels (arteriovenous malformations). Surgeons may use stereotactic radiosurgery instead of traditional surgery. Or they may use it to shrink an AVM before surgery.
Our stroke specialists (vascular neurologists) are experts in advanced treatments for stroke and other cerebrovascular conditions. They continually research, innovate and implement the latest techniques in stroke care.