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When stroke strikes, every minute counts

Posted on by Heather D Harle, MD

 

Time can mean the difference between speaking or not. Time can mean the difference between walking or not. When you have a stroke, every minute counts because time is brain.

Unfortunately, many people don’t react quickly to the signs of stroke—and the delay can be deadly. A recent American Heart Association study found that more than a third of stroke patients don’t get to the hospital by ambulance—the fastest way to medical treatment.

During this Stroke Awareness Month, there is a simple message for everyone: Learn the signs of stroke, spot a stroke FAST, and call 9-1-1 immediately.

What is a stroke?

A stroke cuts off blood flow and oxygen to your brain for a short period of time. Speech problems, numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs, brain damage or even death can result.

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, as well as one of the major causes of disability among adults. Each year in the United States, nearly 800,000 people have a new or a repeat stroke.

Why call an ambulance?

If one-third of all stroke victims don’t arrive by ambulance, they’ve delayed life-saving medical treatment. Research shows that strokes caused by a blood clot-blocking a blood vessel in the brain can be effectively treated with clot-busting drugs—provided the victim gets the drugs within two hours of when symptoms began.

The study found that patients who use emergency services arrived earlier than patients who came to the hospital on their own. They were evaluated promptly and were treated faster.

Emergency services personnel can call ahead to the hospital so that the emergency room staff is ready to act as soon as the patient arrives. EMS teams also can take patients directly to hospitals that have advanced stroke care.

Spotting a stroke FAST

How do you know you or someone you’re with could be having a stroke? Just remember this word—FAST—and check for:

  • Face: Is it drooping to one side or numb? Can the person smile?
  • Arm: Is one arm weak or numb? Can the person raise both arms? Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred or hard to understand? Is the person unable to speak? Can the person repeat a simple sentence?
  • Time: It’s time to call 9-1-1 if you spot any of these symptoms—even if they go away. Get the person to the hospital right away.

At Lancaster General Health, our expert and caring team is here to make sure you get the best care promptly. We are accredited by The Joint Commission and recognized by the PA Department of Health as a Primary Stroke Center.

For more information on stroke risk factors, prevention, and how to spot a stroke FAST, go to www.lghealth.org/stroke.

 | LG Health Physicians Neurology

Heather D. Harle, MD, is a neurologist with LG Health Physicians Neurology specializing in the treatment of headache, stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and neuromuscular diseases. Education: Medical School—Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University; Internship, residency, fellowship—University of Virginia.

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