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Mary Washington Hospital Primary Stroke Center

Certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission since 2009, Mary Washington Hospital provides stroke patients with the highest level of treatment and services according to national standards.

We are dedicated to maintaining this quality stroke care with education and prevention programs and continuum of care from hospitalization through rehabilitation.

You will be evaluated, treated, and will recover under the care of an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals trained to ensure that each stroke patient receives the highest level of care.

The City of Fredericksburg has become the first locality in the region to be designated as a Stroke Smart City, encouraging people to learn the signs of stroke so they can identify when one happens and immediately call 911. Spot a Stroke, Stop a Stroke, Save a Life.

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is a leading cause of disability in adults and the fourth leading cause of death. Eighty percent of strokes are preventable by managing risk factors. When a stroke occurs, quick recognition and treatment can give you or a loved one the best chance of a full recovery.

Also known as a “brain attack”, stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery that supplies blood flow to the brain or when a blood vessel breaks interrupting the flow of blood to an area of the brain.

Strokes are classified as ischemic (the most common) or hemorrhagic.

Ischemic stroke

About 87 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes. They are caused by blockage of an artery that impairs blood flow to part of the brain causing cells and tissues to die from lack of oxygen. The blockage can come from a blood clot in the blood vessels inside the brain (thrombotic stroke) or from a blood clot or plaque debris that develops elsewhere in the body and travels to one of the blood vessels in the brain (embolic stroke).

Hemorrhagic stroke

About 13 percent of strokes are caused when a blood vessel that supplies the brain ruptures and bleeds. This hemorrhagic stroke builds up pressure in surrounding tissues causing irritation and swelling.

When the bleeding is from blood vessels within the brain it is called an intracerebral hemorrhage. This is usually caused by high blood pressure and the bleeding occurs suddenly and often results in coma or death. When the bleeding is in the space between the brain and the membranes that cover the brain, it is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. This type of hemorrhage often results from bleeding due to an aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) (a disorder present at birth).

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Did You Know?

  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in America.
  • About 795,000 Americans will suffer a stroke this year, yet most Americans cannot identify stroke symptoms or risk factors. Many strokes can be prevented through risk factor management.
  • Every minute a stroke goes on untreated, 1.9 million brain cells die.
  • Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, on average.
  • Women are twice as likely to die from stroke than breast cancer annually.
  • There are many manageable risk factors for stroke, including: high blood pressure, weight control, alcohol consumption, smoking, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and transient ischemic attack (TIA).
  • It’s important to understand stroke symptoms and response. Time is a very urgent factor when it comes to stroke. Emergency treatment is available if a stroke is recognized fast and 9-1-1 is called. The faster a person having a stroke is taken to the hospital, the better chance of them receiving emergency treatment that can reduce or even reverse the symptoms of stroke.
  • Stroke will cost the United States an estimated $73.7 billion in 2010.
  • Stroke incidence rate in African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians.

Watch videos about stroke:
What causes stroke?
What are the risk factors for stroke?

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Stroke Symptoms and What to Do

You can save a loved one from death or disability by learning to recognize the symptoms of stroke. "BEFAST” and call 9-1-1 immediately at any sign of a stroke.


  • Balance - see if the person is not walking straight or walking wobbly
  • Eyes - ask if the person has blurry vision or is experiencing double vision.
  • 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?
  • Speech - ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time - if you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Note the time that symptoms first appear. If given within three hours of the first symptoms, an FDA-approved clot-busting drug may reduce long-term disability for the most common form of stroke.

Common symptoms of stroke in men and women

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg-especially on one side of the body
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause
  • If you experience any of these symptoms call 9-1-1 immediately. Note the time, it may be important in determining treatment.

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Preventing Stroke

Many people believe that stroke only occurs in the elderly and cannot be prevented. Both are myths! Stroke can occur at any age, and there are risk factors that you can control such as:

  • Control your blood pressure: Levels higher than 120/80 can put you at risk.
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels: An LDL of 100 or less is optimal and a total cholesterol of less than 200 is desirable.
  • Cease tobacco use: If you smoke, stop. Smoking nearly doubles your risk for stroke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight/diet: Choose a low salt, low fat diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins (lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and low-fat milk).
  • Exercise: Aim for 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Manage your diabetes: Manage diabetes closely to avoid complications that could result in a stroke.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure, so no more than two drinks per day!
  • Get treatment for atrial fibrillation: Tell your doctor if you experience heart palpitations. An irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation (Afib), can lead to blood clot formation and increase your risk for stroke by nearly 500%!
  • Get treatment for TIA (Transient Ischemic Attacks): TIA symptoms, “mini strokes” are just like a stroke but may come and go. Having a TIA can be a sign that something is wrong. Call your doctor immediately!

Source: National Stroke Association

“I thought I did not have time to have a stroke. I was too busy to have a stroke. I have a full time job, I’m raising three children, I’m just too busy to have a stroke. A stroke happens to people who aren’t busy, people who are ill, people who are older. People who aren’t me.”
~ Andrea McCauley, stroke survivor

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Brain Imaging and MRI

The Mary Washington Hospital Primary Stroke Center uses the most advanced imaging technology for stroke patients.

Our latest addition is an artificial intelligence (AI) mobile platform which provides real-time access for ED physicians, radiologists, and neurologists. This allows the team to evaluate images and evaluate images and determine patient treatment quickly and simultaneously, even when off-site.

Stroke Treatment

A stroke requires emergency medical treatment! The specific treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke and the duration of your symptoms. Your age, overall medical status and tolerance for various treatments is also considered. Your caregiver will rapidly assess you and begin appropriate treatment. A combination of medications and surgical treatments may be used. The goals of treatment include:

  • Eliminate clotting
  • Reduce or eliminate swelling in the brain
  • Protect the brain from damage and lack of oxygen

Stroke Surgical Treatment

In some cases, surgical treatment may be used to remove plaque and clots from the arteries to prevent stroke. A stent may also be placed in the carotid artery (in the neck).

A craniotomy (brain surgery) may be performed to remove clots and repair bleeding in the brain. Other surgeries include repair of aneurysms and artery defects that could impact blood flow to the brain.

Watchman: A One-Time Implant that Helps Reduce AFib Stroke Risk

Trans Carotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR)

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Support Groups

For more information about either of our support groups, please contact Susan Halpin, RN, Stroke Coordinator, at 540.741.4815 or

Stroke Support Group

Mary Washington Healthcare’s Stroke Support Group has provided ongoing resource support for stroke survivors and their families or caregivers for over ten years. The Stroke Support Group meets on the first Tuesday of every month, 6:30 p.m.–8:00 p.m. There is a virtual option as well for those who would prefer to attend on Zoom. See flyer below for details.

John F. Fick, III Conference Center
1301 Sam Perry Boulevard
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

See flyer for details
See upcoming dates

Aphasia Support Group

The Aphasia Support Group is for stroke survivors and people with brain injuries resulting in aphasia or apraxia. Family members, friends and caregivers who struggle to communicate with their loved ones are also invited.

1st and 3rd Tuesdays
11:00 a.m.–noon
Tompkins-Martin Medical Plaza, Classroom E
1101 Sam Perry Blvd.
Fredericksburg, VA 22401

See flyer for details
See upcoming dates

Learn more about the stroke program at Mary Washington Healthcare and meet Jessica Boyce, a young stroke survivor who now volunteers as a stroke educator and is an active member of the stroke support group.

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Stroke Certification

MWH Primary Stroke CenterA Primary Stroke Center earns accreditation through intensive evaluations. Staff at a Primary Stroke Center continuously improve their efficiency and effectiveness in treating strokes from the initial emergency treatment through to recovery and rehabilitation.

The Certificate of Distinction for Primary Stroke Centers is awarded by the Joint Commission, an independent non-profit organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations and programs, to recognize centers that follow the best practices for stroke care. Programs applying for advanced certification must meet the requirements for Disease-Specific Care Certification plus additional, clinically specific requirements and expectations.

At Mary Washington Hospital, we’re committed to providing stroke care that aligns with the latest research-based treatment guidelines. Studies show patients can recover better when these guidelines are consistently followed.

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American Heart Association’s Gold Plus Get with the Guidelines®–Stroke Quality Achievement Award

American Heart Association Award recognizes Mary Washington Hospital’s commitment to quality stroke patient care.

Fredericksburg, VA, (July 18, 2023) - Mary Washington Hospital’s Primary Stroke Center has received the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines® - Stroke GOLD PLUS quality achievement award for its commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines, ultimately leading to more lives saved and reduced disability.

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. This causes a part of the brain to not get the blood and oxygen it needs, causing brain cells to die. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability, and accelerating recovery times.


Community Education Opportunities

In addition to treating stroke patients within the hospital, the MWH Stroke team is dedicated to providing the communities we serve with valuable information on stroke education and prevention, including recognizing a stroke.

If you have a group or organization that’s interested in learning more about stroke, call Susan Halpin, RN, Stroke Coordinator, at 540.741.4815 or

To learn more about stroke, visit:

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