May is American Stroke Month. Knowing the symptoms of stroke and activating emergency services can speed up life-saving and brain-saving care.
Every 40 seconds someone in the United States suffers a stroke, and every four minutes someone dies of stroke. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Stroke Association. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.
During American Stroke Month in May, an important message is being amplified: Know the symptoms of stroke and get treatment right away.
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"Stroke is a 'brain attack' that can happen to anyone at any time," said Brooke Kearins, MSN, CRNP, director of Stroke Services at Doylestown Hospital. "Stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off and brain cells begin to die."
Outcome for stroke depends on which part of the brain is affected and how much of the brain is damaged. Stroke is an emergency and responding quickly and getting treatment fast are crucial factors.
Symptoms of Stroke
To recognize the symptoms, Brooke uses 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
Getting Faster Treatment
There are several reasons why calling 911 is the best thing to do in a stroke emergency. Most EMS (Emergency Medical Services) providers are assessing patients for stroke before arrival at the hospital using the Cincinnati Pre-Hospital Stroke Scale.
"EMS providers are trained to recognize stroke based on clinical judgment and use of the scale," said Scott Henley, deputy chief of operations for Central Bucks EMS.
The ambulance squad works closely with Doylestown Hospital on getting patients faster treatment for time-critical emergencies like heart attack and stroke. Central Bucks and about 75 percent of local ambulance squads can transmit EKG's to the Emergency Department, confirming a heart attack and alerting providers to prepare for the patient's arrival.
When emergency medical personnel suspect a stroke, they notify Doylestown Hospital's Emergency Department with a "pre-hospital stroke alert." The alert makes available the CT scan in the Emergency Department and notifies stroke experts (neurologist, radiologist, laboratory and pharmacy) to be ready for the patient's arrival.
Stroke Alerts Save Time
With an alert from the ambulance, patients get faster care at the hospital. In one case in early April, the physician was at the patient's bedside when the patient arrived. The patient had a CT scan five minutes after arrival. The patient received the clot-busting drug tPA 33 minutes after arriving at the hospital. The goal is 60 minutes or less.
Scott says that since CB EMS started doing pre-hospital stroke alerts, the door-to-tPA times have dropped. "We work really closely with Doylestown Hospital's Stroke Task Force. I have a great relationship with them. It is so important to have a good relationship with the local hospital."
Bottom line: Know the symptoms of stroke and call 911 right away if you suspect someone is having a stroke. Faster treatment can mean better outcomes and better quality of life.
Education and Support
Stroke Risk Assessment
- Friday, May 8, 10 am to 1 pm
Brooke Kearins MSN, CRNP, will be performing free stroke screenings, including risk assessment, a check of blood pressure and pulse and auditory evaluation of blood flow in the neck. Appointment required, call 215-672-1870.
Communication After Stroke and Neurologic Illnesses
- When: Wednesday, May 13, 10 am to 12 pm
- Where: Health Connections, Cowhey Family ShopRite of Warminster, 942 West Street Road, Warminster, PA 18974
MossRehab speech pathologist Scott Littig, SLP, will discuss speech and language deficits after a stroke or neurologic event.
The Stroke Support Group meets the first Thursday of the month in the Moss Rehab Day Room at Doylestown Hospital. For more information, call 215-345-2657.
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