Dr. Marilyn Rymer

Expert Exchange

Today strokes make up for every 1 in 19 deaths in the United States and are the leading cause of serious long-term disability.

With the founding of one of the first stroke centers in the US in 1993, Saint Luke’s Dr. Marilyn Rymer* has made Kansas City a regional center of excellence for acute stroke treatment.

The stroke program was the foundation for development of the Neuroscience Institute, a division of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City and a realized dream of Dr. Rymer. When the Neuroscience Institute opened its doors in January 2013 it became one of the only free-standing neuroscience institutes in the Midwest.

As part of GE Healthcare’s “healthymagination” initiative, an analysis of data by Oxford Analytica compared Saint Luke’s stroke care to three national databases and found that access to stroke care and outcomes were significantly better at Saint Luke’s. This analysis was presented at the Global Stroke Forum and published in the journal STROKE and led to the designation of the Saint Luke’s Stroke Program as the world’s first “stroke solution site.”

The development of the Neuroscience Institute began in 2001 when the same principles of program design were applied to other areas of neuroscience such as epilepsy and brain tumors. Today, the Neuroscience Institute houses 68 private beds, as well as an 18-bed neuro-ICU, and is staffed by over 35 physicians.

“The new facility is a wonderful asset for the Neuroscience Institute, but the real strength lies with the physicians, nurses, technicians and support staff who make patient care the number one priority,” said Rymer.

Achieving good outcomes in acute stroke is time dependent but the stroke team at Saint Luke’s continues to extend the time after the event when treatment can be successful. They are basing treatment decisions on the physiologic parameters rather than strict time limits.

“If we can determine that there is a lot of brain function that can be saved by advanced imaging techniques then it will be possible to treat a lot more people with stroke reversal therapies,” said Rymer.

The percentage of stroke cases that get treated at Saint Luke’s is between 30 and 38% compared to 5-6% as the national average. More than 60 hospitals in the region refer cases for treatment, and the efficient transfer process ensures better outcomes for more people. Strokes occur at any time of day or night and Saint Luke’s Stroke Center is prepared with a 24/7 staff able to intervene quickly. Along with fast action, the stroke team at Saint Luke’s ensures patient recovery from strokes with the clot buster drug, tPA and various mechanical devices that can remove a clot from a brain artery.

The rapid access to stroke experts and the research to extend the time window for treatment are some of the reasons the Saint Luke’s Stroke Center, led by Dr. Rymer, is one of the best in the country.

* Since the posting of this video and article Marilyn Rymer has moved to The University of Kansas Hospital as the Vice President of Neuroscience and Professor of Neurology.