Stroke is A Medical Emergency!
Like a heart attack, stroke demands immediate medical attention. Emergency medical treatment can make all the difference in the world for someone who is having a stroke . . . it can be the difference between life and death . . . the difference between brain cells that are saved and brain cells that are damaged forever . . . the difference between recovery and lifelong impairment. For each minute that brain cells are deprived of oxygen, brain damage increases and more of the brain is injured.
Medical research shows that when a stroke happens, brain cells in the area of the stroke set off a sort of chain reaction of chemical and electrical signals, possibly leading to secondary injury. This secondary injury can damage or even kill brain cells in a much larger area surrounding the original stroke. The faster a stroke is diagnosed, the faster treatment can occur, thus lowering the risk of permanent brain damage and disability. However, nationwide only about 15% of stroke patients get to the hospital during the window of time where the most effective therapy can be delivered (within three to six hours of the onset of symptoms). In fact, most people wait anywhere from six to 24 hours after experiencing the first symptoms of a stroke before seeking medical care. This is too late!
Neurologists and other emergency physicians involved in the treatment of stroke/brain attack have come up with the saying "Time is brain!" as a direct way of conveying the message that stroke is a medical emergency. This simply means that as more time elapses after the onset of stroke, more brain damage will occur. Conversely, if the stroke is treated immediately, brain damage will be minimized. Stroke is a brain attack.
People at high risk of stroke, especially those that have experienced mini-stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) should research the location of nearby hospitals that have established emergency room teams to handle stroke/brain attack. These hospitals will have neurologists, radiologists/neuro-radiologists and other healthcare professionals who are able to diagnose and treat a stroke during the critical three-hour window in which tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) must be delivered. Those medical centers and hospitals with dedicated stroke treatment programs should have experience in the administration of TPA clot busting agents or other thrombolitic and neuro-protective agents, as well as dedicated specialists and imaging protocols for diagnosing stroke and mapping the best course of therapy.
Updated: January 14, 2008