Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Last modified on December 29th, 2019
Considering that strokes rank as one of the top three causes of death in the United States, any signs or symptoms should be taken seriously and cared for immediately. Just as if someone were suffering from a heart-attack, seeking medical attention right away for a stroke is paramount; however, when dealing with a stroke, the signs may not be so easy to recognize, which means that finding help may not be a first reaction.
When dealing with a stroke, the warning signs can be subtle. Since a stroke consists of a sudden loss of oxygen to the brain, there is not a strong presence of pain or severe discomfort (pain is typically associated with serious medical issues). Nonetheless, the rate at which brain damage can occur during a stroke is rapid, and survival is dependent upon how quickly one can get to a hospital for treatment. By learning the symptoms of a stroke and familiarizing yourself with how to prepare for one, you or a loved one will have a much better possibility of recovery.
According to The Stroke Association based in the United Kingdom, an individual will display certain signs when they are experiencing a stroke. To help recognize these symptoms, the organization has created the acronym F.A.S.T.:
Time to call 911
Although pain may not always be present, someone who is suffering from a stroke will exhibit physical impairments that are easy to spot. First off, see if the individual can smile. If you notice right away that the smile is only apparent on one side of the face, a stroke may be imminent. Next, have the individual lift their arms and hold them in place. For many people who are suffering from a stroke, only one arm can be raised or both raised arms will quickly sink. If these signs aren’t as clear, have the individual recite a basic sentence or read something from a book. If their speech patterns are slurred or incomprehensible, chances are that they are having a stroke.
The person suffering from a stroke must be taken to the Emergency Room (ER) as quickly as possible. Once checked in, the patient will be inspected by medical professionals to pinpoint the kind of stroke they are experiencing. If for some reason you or a loved one cannot travel safely to the ER, calling an ambulance is always a good idea because they have the ability to arrive quickly at your location and can administer treatment while traveling. In addition, the ER will have a team standing by once the ambulance arrives on site.
Getting to the ER as quickly as possible is perhaps the most important part of managing a stroke because brain tissue can die at a rapid pace. Statistics show that the initial 10–20 minutes of a stroke plays a crucial role in deciding the overall quality and chance of survival. If you recognize the signs, don’t hesitate to call.
After the call is made, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will arrive on the scene and assess the situation. They will begin by checking the patient’s vital signs, administering an IV, and possibly provide them with oxygen for stabilization during transit.
Once they arrive at the ER, a medical team will take over, reviewing the patient and drawing blood for further analysis. Soon after, the team will conduct an electrocardiogram (EKG) to display the patient’s heartbeat along with carrying out other vital checkups. In addition to an EKG, a computed tomographic scan (CT scan) will also be performed to identify what kind of stroke the patient has. These scans have the ability to track any bleeding in the brain that pertains to a stroke of such a magnitude, but more often than not, the scan may fail to distinguish infarction strokes (caused by a blocked blood vessel). During the initial 24 hours of a stroke, injured brain tissue mimics healthy tissue on the scanner, so infarction strokes can be deceiving. Either way, medical professionals will be able to examine the test’s results and figure out the best plan of action for immediate treatment.
In terms of immediate treatment, the ultimate goal for a medical team to accomplish is stabilization and risk reduction. Stabilizing the patient means maintaining proper vital signs, limiting the size of blood-vessel blockage, minimizing long-term disabilities, and impeding further health issues.
For the best possible outcome, these treatments should be initiated within the first hour of the patient’s entry into the ER or upon traveling in the ambulance. For a more specific stroke—typically ischemic strokes—a doctor may administer tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator) that dissolves blood clots preventing blood flow to the brain; however, there are restrictions on who can receive this type of treatment. Consult with your doctor to discuss any options you may be unsure of during the treatment process, but most importantly, remain calm and stay engaged in the conversation.
Caring for a stroke patient requires a great deal of attention when a stroke takes place, and doctors do their best to produce the most positive outcome when a stroke subsides. With that in mind, it is not uncommon to experience complications after a stroke, so knowing what issues may come as a result will prepare you to handle them in the best frame of mind.
Some of these complications include cerebral edema, seizures, limb contractures, hypertension, hyperglycemia, fever, falls and slips (most common), and pneumonia. If and when a complication takes place, talk with your doctor to decide the next step to take toward recovery.
Remember, the first 24 hours of a stroke are the most crucial, and a tremendous amount of focus and resilience is required to make the right choices. With this breakdown, you’ll be able to efficiently assess yours or a loved one’s state of being, using your analysis to then get to the ER or make the call for an ambulance as soon as possible. When it comes to the brain, every second counts, and being prepared can make a world of difference.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.