Time is Critical if You’re Having a Stroke - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on August 10, 2016

Time is Critical if You’re Having a Stroke

Speed is the single most important factor in stroke treatment.

Speed is the single most important factor
in stroke treatment.

If you thought you were having a stroke, would you know the first thing you should do? According to a recent study, only a little more than half of people suffering a stroke call 911 for help. This statistic becomes even more alarming when you consider that about 800,000 people suffer a stroke in the U.S. each year.

What is a Stroke?

When someone is having a stroke, there’s no time to waste when it comes to seeking immediate medical treatment. During a stroke, also known as a brain attack, blood flow to the brain is suddenly interrupted or severely reduced, either by a blood clot or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain.

When blood flow is cut off to the brain, brain cells don’t receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die, which can result in temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part of the brain is affected.

This is part of why it’s imperative to seek medical attention at the first signs of a stroke – the sooner the blood flow can be restored, the less likely disability and death may occur.

Speed is the Most Important Factor in Stroke Treatment

Delaying treatment during a stroke can lead to paralysis, muscle weakness, loss or impairment of the ability to speak or perform everyday tasks, or death. In fact, stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

The other reason it’s so important to call 911 right away is because stroke treatment is time sensitive. If someone is having an ischemic stroke, which is a stroke caused by a blot clot blocking an artery, doctors use tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to dissolve the clot and improve blood flow. However, tPA needs to be administered within three hours of stroke onset or, in certain patients, four-and-a-half hours. A significant number of stroke sufferers don’t get to a hospital in time to receive tPA treatment.

Signs of a Stroke

The first signs of a stroke that should signal you to call 911 include sudden difficulty speaking and understanding, a sudden severe headache, blurred or impaired vision, difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, facial numbness or paralysis, arm weakness or paralysis, especially on one side.

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, follow the acronym F.A.S.T. to quickly identify the symptoms and get help:

  • Face: Ask them to smile. Does one side of their face droop?
  • Arms: Ask them to raise both of their arms up. Does one drift down?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does their speech sound strange or slurred?
  • Time: If you observe any of the signs, call 911.

Crozer-Keystone’s Certified Stroke Centers

The Joint Commission designated Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Taylor Hospital as Certified Primary Stroke Centers for its proven, fast stroke care. This means patients who come to Crozer, DCMH or Taylor presenting with a possible stroke have a better chance for a favorable outcome and a lower risk of complications.

When a patient with stroke symptoms arrives at the emergency departments of either Crozer, DCMH or Taylor, our multidisciplinary teams go into immediate action. It only takes a few minutes for a stroke to damage brain cells, and quick action with drugs or other therapies can help to reduce damage to the brain.

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