Munson Healthcare Celebrates Milestones on World Stroke Day


Munson Healthcare joins with other health systems and organizations today recognizing World Stroke Day and celebrating recent advances to providing stroke care.

Based in Traverse City, Munson Healthcare launched its endovascular stroke intervention program in the fall of 2020. That program is saving lives and recently cared for its 100th patient in just its first year. The hospital is also a recognized and certified Primary Stroke Center.

Neurosurgeon and Endovascular Stroke Program Director Gary Rajah, M.D., leads the program that continues to make strides toward a hospital goal of becoming a recognized comprehensive stroke center. Current patient intervention numbers are similar to stroke centers across the state of Michigan.

The endovascular stroke program at Munson Medical Center recently opened its second endovascular care suite featuring another Artis Icono Biplane. There are no other hospitals in the country that have two of these machines which now provide greater capacity to perform these life-saving interventions and preserve quality of life for patients across northern Michigan.

The hospital also recently acquired transcranial doppler ultrasound technology that allows neurosurgeons to evaluate the circulation of blood around the brain. The testing detects strokes caused by blood clots, reveals blood vessel narrowing, tiny blood clots, and more.

Endovascular strokes – those caused by blockages in blood flow to the brain – require fast treatment. Before the launch of the endovascular program in 2020, these patients were transported to Grand Rapids for care, losing precious time that could result in less-than-optimal outcomes. Each hour treatment of stroke is delayed can mean a 7.7 percent decrease in the chance for functional independence and a loss of 1.9 million neurons with each passing minute.

Munson Medical Center Stroke Program Director Kersti Bruining, M.D., said World Stroke Day helps remind the public how important it is to know the signs of a stroke.

“Once one of these signs is evident, it is vital to call 911 and get the right kind of care as soon as possible,” she said. “First responders and emergency departments across the Munson Healthcare system quickly work together to assess and coordinate care to ensure each patient gets the resources they need when minutes matter.” 

It’s important to BE-FAST in recognizing the signs of stroke:
B- Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
E – Eyes: Is the person experiencing double vision or are they unable to see out of one eye?
F – Face: Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arms: Does one arm drift downward? Have the person raise both arms.
S – Speech: Is the person slurring their speech or having difficulty getting the words out right? Have the person repeat a simple phrase.
T – Time: Time to call 911 and get the person to a stroke center immediately.

Earlier this year, Munson Medical Center was recertified as a primary stroke center for the fourth time. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association also recently honored Munson Medical Center with its 2021 Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Award along with the Target Stroke Honor Roll Elite Award.

In addition to the endovascular stroke treatment capabilities, the hospital offers a dedicated stroke unit with specialized nursing staff trained to care for stroke patients and promote the best outcomes.

More information on Munson Healthcare stroke services can be found at