It can happen in an instant. A blood clot lodges in an artery, blocking blood flow to the brain. Deprived of oxygen and nutrients, brain cells begin to die. Within minutes the body starts losing functions, such as speech, movement, vision, or any other capability affected by the dying cells. The longer the stroke continues, the more brain cells die.
That’s why immediate treatment of stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack” is vital. Getting to a hospital where blood flow can be restored quickly may prevent disability or death. Certified Stroke Centers are hospitals where everything is in place to diagnose and treat a stroke as fast as possible.
Wesley Medical Center is a Primary Stroke Center, certified by The Joint Commission, the national accreditation body for healthcare organizations. This means Wesley meets national standards that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients.
It is extremely important to recognize these signs of a stroke and call 911 immediately:
- New numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
- New confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- New trouble seeing
- New trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- New, sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Treating a stroke
Ischemic strokes —those caused by blood clots — can be treated by a clot-busting drug called tPA injected intravenously. TPA can have dangerous effects, however, if injected more than three hours after the stroke’s onset. That window of time can be stretched to six hours if the hospital has on staff a rare type of physician, a neurointerventional radiologist, who can inject tPA directly into the clot via a catheter threaded through the artery. At Wesley, Dr. Richard Berger specializes in this type of treatment.
Eighty-five percent of strokes are caused by blood clots, but 15 percent are caused by bleeding into the brain. Dr. Berger can often treat hemorrhages that occur from rupture of a blood vessel on the surface of the brain (called an aneurysm) by inserting a small coil into the blood vessel to block the leakage.
Working together is key
Diagnosing and treating stroke require teams of specialists both inside and outside the hospital. The resulting deficits — which may range from difficulty speaking to altered mental status — also need treatment.From the ambulance crew to the ER, the imaging department, intensive care unit, pharmacy, lab, rehabilitation staff and more, several areas must work together to meet the individual patient’s needs.
Strokes are usually preventable. Except for advancing age, most risk factors can be controlled. They include high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, obesity and physical inactivity. A change in lifestyle can have a tremendous effect on preventing a stroke — and the tragic consequences that follow.
For more information about stroke, including symptoms and prevention, log on to www.StrokeAssociation.org.