Every year about 800,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States. Significant risk factors include atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder) and hypertension (high blood pressure). Treating these conditions can significantly reduce the risk of first or recurrent stroke.
As medical director for the Scripps Health stroke program, Mary Kalafut, M.D. knows the best way to treat strokes, or brain attacks, is to respond rapidly.
“We need to move fast – every minute can cost brain recovery,” said Dr. Kalafut. “The emergency room team must recognize stroke and alert the stroke team, including the neurologist.”
Upon a stroke patient’s arrival to the emergency room, blood is drawn and a CT scan is completed. This information is combined with a physical exam and patient history. If the patient comes to the emergency room within the first four and a half hours of the onset of the stroke, the standard treatment is to administer a clot busting medication called tPA.
“In some cases, we can perform neurointerventional surgery, in which a wire is guided through blood vessels to the area of blockage and the clot is removed,” said Dr. Kalafut.
How do you know if someone is suffering a stroke? There’s an acronym to describe what to look for and what to do – F.A.S.T.:
• Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop? Is the person's smile uneven?
• Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• Speech. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Can the person repeat a simple sentence correctly?
• Time—if someone shows any of these symptoms call 911 immediately.