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Circling the Dome

Laying the Groundwork for a Global Stroke Center

The field of stroke has undergone a dramatic revolution in the last few years, leading to longer lives and better quality of life for patients affected by this often-devastating condition.

But although these advances have the potential to help many of the more than 15 million individuals around the world affected by a stroke each year, they don’t reach most of these patients—largely due to a lack of resources or inability for patients to reach available therapies within an appropriate time window, says Justin McArthur, director of the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurology.

A recent gift aims to change that. Johns Hopkins recently received a pledge of $50 million from the United Arab Emirates to launch the Sheikh Khalifa Stroke Institute. Based at Johns Hopkins with a second location in Abu Dhabi, the institute will focus Johns Hopkins’ efforts to leverage advances in engineering, artificial intelligence and precision medicine to better diagnose, treat and restore function to more stroke patients.

In the UAE, an estimated 25,000 people have a stroke annually. Half of those individuals are under 46 years old, compared with those in the U.S., where nearly three-quarters of stroke patients are over 65.

“Despite so many recent advances in our field, stroke remains one of the leading causes of disability for adults worldwide and a major burden on health care systems and families,” says McArthur. “This transformative gift is allowing us to work toward a world where stroke, and stroke recovery, is substantially improved.”

The new institute aims to transform stroke care for patients around the globe through two centers of excellence, explains McArthur. The first will be devoted to stroke detection and diagnosis; the other to stroke treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. Clinicians involved in the latter center—a multidisciplinary team including members from neurology, nursing, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation, among others—will put the latest findings to use. The Johns Hopkins Hospital is doubling the number of beds devoted specifically to stroke, from six to 12, and is setting aside specific rehabilitation beds equipped with technology that’s already been shown to be beneficial to stroke recovery.

Colleagues in the UAE are developing an ambulance system equipped with a CT scanner to diagnose stroke as early as possible, allowing providers to begin clot-busting treatments before patients even arrive at the hospital.