Reaction Time to Stroke Critical for Treatment, Doctors Say

May 29, 2017

85% of strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain.
Credit mayoclinic.org

Medical professionals agree that when it comes to stroke treatment and prevention, time is of the essence. Reacting quickly to stroke symptoms greatly improves the effectiveness of stroke response and care. Upstate Comprehensive Stroke Center outreach coordinator Josh Onyan finds many people underreact to stroke symptoms.  He wonders if they’re not certain what to look for.  Onyan suggests the word FAST can help you member symptoms.

“So any facial drooping, facial droop is where your mouth droops down, your tongue might come out, or your eye might go down a little bit. And the A stand for arm weakness.  When you hold your arm out does one droop  more than the other or do you have a weakness in your leg also? S being speech, is your speech slurred? Are you unable to form sentences? And then T being time.  Time is of the essence.  Call 9-1-1 if you expect that you’re having a stroke.”

Help in recognizing symptoms of a stroke.
Credit http://www.upstate.edu/stroke/

Not recognizing a stroke when it begins can reduce the time medical professionals have to react and begin treatment. Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Robert Brown sees people realizing their own symptoms,  but might have to rely on others.

“A loved one or a friend or a coworker may begin to note that that person is acting different than usual or they’re just not talking in their usual way or that they have a bit of a facial droop.  So it can be someone around them that can quickly realize that that person is starting to have those neurological symptoms.”

Arriving in the ER, stroke victims receive cat scans to determine the nature and cause of the stroke.  One common treatment is clot-dissolving medicine, but now a new surgical technique can go after the clot.

“A small, plastic tube called a catheter is placed in an artery near the groin. And that little catheter is then advanced all the way up into the brain tissue, and the clot that is blocking the artery can be removed. And this is the new era of stroke treatment, and it’s very exciting.”

Strokes are currently the number one leading cause of long-term disability, but Onyan notes that many are much more serious.

“We know that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Specifically in Onondaga County, it’s right around number four, which is interesting. So we have to look at who’s living in the county, what’s the population, and what are we looking like, what are we eating? And we do find that there are some races that have a higher propensity for stroke.”

He adds, like heart health, more exercise, avoiding fatty foods, and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure can help prevent strokes.  May is stroke awareness month.