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What Do You Know About Stroke

Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Signs to Prevent a Stroke

Doylestown Hospital's stroke experts want you to know how to identify stroke and what to do about it.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of adult long-term disability.

Would you be able to tell if someone was having a stroke?

A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain, whether from a blood clot (as in most cases) or a bleed into the brain. "It's usually a sudden onset of symptoms," explains Brooke Kearins, MSN, CRNP, director of Doylestown Health Stroke Services.

To recognize the symptoms, she points to the acronym BE FAST*:

Balance: person is off balance or stumbling, dizzy
Eyes: vision is blurry or double or there is a loss of vision

Face: uneven smile, facial drooping
Arms: one arm – or leg – is weaker than the other
Speech: is slurred or nonsensical, person cannot understand what's being said to them, ask the person to say their name or a simple sentence
Time: Time is brain and it's time to call 9-1-1

What is a mini-stroke, or TIA?

A transient ischemic attack or TIA occurs when the obstruction (blood clot) is short-lived and resolves itself, usually within an hour. Even though the symptoms clear up, it's vitally important to seek medical care for a TIA since it's a warning sign you could have a stroke later on.

"Ten percent of people who have a TIA have a stroke within 90 days," says Brooke. "Five percent within two days."

What should I do if someone is having a stroke?

If you notice any of the symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately.

"It is imperative to call 911 immediately when you suspect you are a loved one may be having a stroke" says Sudhir Aggarwal, MD, medical director of Doylestown Health Stroke Services. "It can make a huge difference if symptoms of stroke are noticed early on and the patient is brought to the hospital immediately. The treatment options for stroke are very limited and time-bound. Once the time window has closed, there is not much a doctor can do for the stroke."

Dr. Aggarwal notes there are several reasons why calling 911 is the best thing to do:

  • Local ambulance crews can issue a "pre-hospital stroke alert" to the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department (ED) letting them know a stroke patient is on the way.
  • The alert clears the CT scanner in the ED so it's ready when the patient arrives.
  • The ED sends a page to the stroke team so they are available and ready even before the patient arrives.

Ambulance crews can start an IV, check blood pressure/pulse, give fluids and stabilize the patient en route to the hospital. This is something a family member or friend can't do if they're driving the patient. "EMS can also handle the unexpected, like if a person stops breathing," adds Brooke.

Learn more about Stroke Services

A note to family members or friends

If your loved one is brought to the hospital with a suspected stroke, there are things you can do to help.

  • Bring the most recent, updated list of medications the person is taking. Or simply gather up the bottles and bring them.
  • Notify medical personnel of any recent surgeries and the stroke patient's medical history.
  • Let medical personnel know when the stroke symptoms started or the last time you or anyone saw the person in his or her normal state of health.

Why is time so important in treating stroke?

Time is brain, as the saying goes with stroke. The longer the brain is without blood supply, the more damage occurs.

About 50% of people who have a stroke are left with some type of disability.

Contrary to the myth there is no cure for stroke, there are several ways stroke can be treated. One of the most effective medications is Alteplase IV r-tPA, tissue plasminogen activator, a strong clot buster that must be administered within 4.5 hours for certain eligible patients.

You're not alone

Brooke runs a Stroke Support Group open to stroke survivors, their loved ones and caregivers.

View upcoming meetings

*BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Health Care.

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