Each year about 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, which is the nation's third leading cause of death. On average, someone suffers a stroke ever 45 second and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, with about 4.7 million stroke survivors alive today.
Knowing what to do in case of a stroke can mean the difference between life and death. Getting immediate attention from a specialized stroke care team can dramatically increase your chances of survival and recovery.
Northwest Medical Center is a designated Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. This designation means that we have demonstrated that our stroke care program follows national standards and guidelines that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients. In case of a stroke, fast diagnosis is critical to saving lives and reducing the debilitating effects. Our Stroke Team, comprised of emergency medicine physicians, nurses, and neurologists know just what to do.
What is a stroke?
A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability.
Knowing the warning signs
Stroke Symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
When a patient arrives at the Stroke Center, a physical exam is conducted and tests are done immediately to learn the cause of the stroke. Among the most important diagnostic tools are CT scans and MRIs. They determine the type of stroke a patient has had, enabling the physician to pursue the most effective course of treatment. The most common type of stroke is ischemic, in which case a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain and stops the flow of blood.
Powerful clot-busting drugs, such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) have proven to be particularly effective when the CT scan shows no sign of bleeding. tPA helps restore blood flow to the damaged area of the brain. Studies show patients with ischemic stroke who receive tPA within three hours of the onset of symptoms can reduce the chance of brain damage and permanent disabilities. Our specialists at the Stroke Center may perform a cutting-edge procedure that uses blood vessels to deliver tPA to specific parts of the brain. Other treatments employed by the center’s qualified staff include carotid surgery and newly approved carotid artery stents.
The Joint Commission's Primary Stroke Center Certification is based on the recommendations for primary stroke centers published by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association's statements/guidelines for stroke care. The Joint Commission launched the program—the nation's first—in 2003. A list of programs certified by the Joint Commission is available at www.jointcommission.org.