When identifying and treating a stroke, every second counts
Question: How can I increase my chances of surviving a stroke?
Answer: When identifying and treating a stroke, every second counts. Learn what to look for if you think you or a loved one are having a stroke.
Every 40 seconds, an American has a stroke. It happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts, ruptures or is blocked by a clot. As a result, the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, and pieces of the brain die.
That adds up to 795,000 a year, making stroke the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability.
Yet the American Heart Association says that nine in 10 Americans don’t think of stroke as a major health concern. It’s why a lot of stroke patients are treated in the intensive care unit.
- Sudden onset
- Facial droop
- Difficulty speaking
- Vision loss or double vision
- Weakness of one side of the body
- Numbness of one side of the body
- Worst headache of your life
There are two kinds of stroke, hemorrhagic and ischemic. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain and has a higher mortality rate.
The most common type of stroke is ischemic. It can be treated with a clotbuster called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). Yet only 1 to 2 percent of eligible patients, out of 750,000 patients annually, receive it.
Why? Because there’s less than a three-hour window of opportunity to administer tPA and too few specialists who can quickly prescribe it.
Admission to a neurological/neurosurgical ICU led by a neuro-intensivist has been associated with improved stroke outcomes and lower mortality.
HonorHealth has a telerobot that allows a fellow neuro-intensivist coordinate a stroke alert at HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center and HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center. From miles away, a neuro-intensivist can evaluate the patient and test results on the screen.
If it’s within three hours of onset of symptoms, the physician can prescribe tPA to restore blood flow to the brain.
Timing is everything. During a stroke, every minute costs about two million brain cells.
We have billions, but to lose two million a minute is huge. Those cells contain valuable memories and functions that cannot be recovered quickly or, for a lot of people, at all.
DON’T WAIT — Call 9-1-1!
Victor Zach, MD, is a board-certified vascular neurologist and neuro-intensivist at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center.