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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Cars fill a parking lot at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington Regional Medical Center has opened an intensive care unit for patients recovering from surgery for strokes and other neurological problems.

The 20-bed unit began accepting patients in the past couple weeks, a spokeswoman said Monday. It's housed in the medical center's main building in space refurbished during expansion and renovation.

Specialized intensive care unit

Washington Regional Medical Center recently opened a neurosurgical intensive care unit at its main Fayetteville hospital.

• Size: 20 beds

• Who it’s for: Patients recovering from surgery for spinal cord or brain injuries, epilepsy and other neurological illness, and strokes and other injuries

• Location: 3215 N. Northhills Blvd., first floor

Source: Washington Regional Medical Center

The region's other clinics and health systems offer multiple neurological services, including dedicated centers at Northwest Health and Mercy Northwest Arkansas, but Washington Regional said in a news release the intensive care unit focused on brain and spinal patients is the first of its kind locally.

"From a specially trained care team to the most advanced technology, everything in the unit is designed to accommodate the unique intensive care needs of neurological-neurosurgical patients," Mark Bever, Washington Regional's executive vice president and administrator, said.

The unit's equipment includes a machine to continuously and noninvasively monitor brain activity and ceiling-mounted lifts for patients unable to move on their own, spokeswoman Gina Maddox said. Its nurses, therapists and other care providers are specially trained.

"This patient population is very delicate and requires constant monitoring," Kasha Pinkerton, the unit's nursing manager, said in the news release.

Some of the nation's highest rates of stroke hospitalizations and deaths are in Arkansas, one piece in a constellation of negative health measures for the state, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other observers. The Arkansas Department of Health counted almost 7,500 strokes in 2014, according to a news release from the department last fall.

Washington Regional's roughly $70 million core renewal project added the 20 beds. The system is expanding stroke and heart services and adding a third floor to part of the medical center, among other changes. The renovation also allowed the hospital this year to begin offering a heart valve procedure first brought to the region by Mercy in the spring.

Studies into the impact of specialized intensive care units and their teams of health care providers since about 2000 have found the specialized approach can lower mortality rates and shorten stays for people with head trauma and bleeding in the brain, according to research in the Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology and other journals.

Multiple Northwest Arkansas health care providers have expanded and begun services in recent years, both to meet the needs of a growing population and often to be the first to offer a particular type of care or facility. Mercy and Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas have added locations, for example, and Northwest expanded its mental health services in Springdale and Siloam Springs.

Maddox said the Washington Regional neurosurgical care unit is in space previously used for pediatrics and women's surgical procedures, which moved into the hospital's five-story Women and Infant Center when the center opened in 2016.

NW News on 08/07/2018

Print Headline: Hospital opens neurology ICU

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