Recognizing Signs & Symptoms of a Stroke
What to do when every second counts
By Dr. David Likosky, EvergreenHealth Stroke Expert
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke.
The actions that take place in the minutes that follow are critical: the more quickly that person can receive care, the better chance they have of making a full recovery.
Causes and Symptoms of Stroke
A stroke occurs when there is a blockage of blood and oxygen to the brain, which can kill or damage brain cells.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 93 percent of stroke victims feel a sudden numbness or weakness concentrated to one side of the body or a specific limb, such as their face, arms or legs.
If you or a loved one experience these symptoms, don’t hesitate—call 911.
Other symptoms might include:
- sudden confusion
- difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- dizziness or loss of coordination
- trouble seeing
- a sudden severe headache with no apparent cause.
Even if the symptom only lasts a short time or feels minor, it’s still important to react quickly and seek care as soon as possible.
Prevention and Diagnosis of Stroke
The best steps you can take to prevent a stroke involve practicing a healthy lifestyle and keeping your blood pressure in check.
Some factors, including family history, are beyond our control, but staying healthy and active, keeping your blood sugar and cholesterol down, and refraining from smoking do a lot more than just decreasing your risk of stroke. These habits also contribute to living a longer, healthier life.
If you or a loved one does suffer from a stroke, the narrow window for treatment in the minutes that follow makes immediate diagnosis and treatment all the more important.
A good rule to follow when diagnosing a possible stroke is FAST: Face, Arms, Speech and Time. If you suspect someone is experiencing a stroke, take these steps:
- FACE - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- ARMS - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- SPEECH – When repeating a simple phrase, is their speech slurred or strange?
- TIME - If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
Treatment of Stroke
At EvergreenHealth, we consistently innovate our technologies and practices to exceed the national standards for advanced care.
The entire stroke team works collaboratively to ensure that patients are diagnosed and treated with the utmost urgency.
As soon as our emergency department receives the call of a possible stroke, that patient becomes a top priority. The stroke team of specially trained physicians, neurologists, hospitalists, intensivists and nurses prepares to take action. Neurosurgeons and radiologists are on call if needed, as well.
We also provide Telestroke technology, which connects patients with neurologists and stroke specialists at any time of the day or night to deliver an immediate care assessment.
Dissolving blood clots
In appropriate cases, we’ll administer clot-busting medication such as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a drug that dissolves the blood clot and drastically improves a patient’s likelihood of recovering.
However, this medication is only effective if delivered up to four and a half hours after symptoms begin, making it all the more critical for patients to seek emergency care right away.
Removing blood clots
In some cases, we can remove blood clots from arteries in the brain, restoring blood flow with dramatic improvement.
These minimally invasive procedures are done in our state-of-the-art biplane suite, which provides 3-D views of blood vessels. Through a small puncture in the groin, catheters are threaded up into the blood clots in order to restore blood flow.
Our neurosurgeons can also treat aneurysms and many other conditions using the same equipment.
A stroke can be life-changing. Prevention in the form of a healthy lifestyle and risk factor management, along with early detection and immediate action, will help to ensure the best outcomes.
Learn more about Stroke Services.