SUMMIT, NJ - The helipad at Overlook Medical Center, designated for hospital-to-hospital transport of critically ill neuroscience patients, has enabled the Atlantic Health System hospital to receive, on October 7, its 100th patient by air transfer.

Since the helipad opened on Overlook;s roof November 28, 2016, 100 critically ill neuroscience patients have been transferred by air from other hospitals to the medical center’s Atlantic Neuroscience Institute.  

“The majority of patients are suffering from a stroke, intracranial hemorrhage or aneurysm and are in need of highly skilled intervention and care as fast as possible,” said John Halperin, MD, chair of neurosciences at Overlook Medical Center and medical director of Atlantic Neuroscience Institute.  

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Overlook Medical Center is a Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center staffed with a team of stroke neurologists and nurses and a team of endovascular neurosurgeons who can remove brain blood clots through minimally invasive interventional procedures.  Critically ill patients are cared for in the hospital’s 10-bed neuro-intensive care unit staffed by specialty-trained and credentialed neuroscience nurses and dedicated fellowship trained physicians specializing in neuro- intensive care.

Most strokes are caused by interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain. This deprives the brain of oxygen, which causes brain cells to die. Because speed is critical to preserving brain tissue many hospitals opt to transfer their patients who need a higher level care to Overlook Medical Center by helicopter.  

Patients come from as far as White Plains Hospital in New York, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune City, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Fifteen patients have been transferred from Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington.  

Transferred patients are generally evenly divided between men and women and range in age from 30 to 93 years, with 69 years being the most common age.

Sixty-nine-year-old Kathryn Bellifemine of Wanaque, New Jersey says, "I would not have had the outcome I did without this life-saving stroke service." She had a stroke at home and was found by her husband lying on the floor, and transferred from Chilton Medical Center to Overlook. "It was exactly four hours from the time I was on the floor until Dr. Benitez operated on me that night. How lucky am I to have been there and get, at midnight, one of the best surgeons in this field." 

According to Dr. Halperin, the current national target in stroke care is for 50 percent of patients who receive the clot-busting drug to be treated within 60 minutes or less of arrival, also known as “door-to-needle” time. This means all the diagnostic imaging and assessments to make a stroke diagnosis must be met in that time frame. At Overlook Medical Center, he said, 84 percent are treated in less than 45 minutes, 97 percent within 60 minutes. After a stroke, he said, “Every passing minute means brain damage.”