Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies of a stroke every four minutes. This is why emergency medical care for a person who may be having a stroke is so critical.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or a blood vessel within the brain bursts, which can lead to brain damage, long-term disability and death. Early intervention is vital in the treatment of stroke to minimize the damage done to the brain, which is why it is so important to know the signs of stroke and call 911 immediately when they appear.
The mnemonic BE FAST offers a simple way to remember the most common signs of stroke — and how to respond.
B = Balance — Assess whether the person has a loss of balance. Are they unable to walk due to imbalance?
E = Eyes — Ask about the person’s eyesight. Do they have loss of vision or double vision?
F = Face drooping — Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
A = Arm weakness — Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech difficulty — Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
T = Time to call 911 — If the person shows any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.
Once a patient arrives at the hospital’s emergency department and stroke is suspected, several tests can be used to diagnose stroke, determine a patient’s prognosis and plan the best method of treatment. These tests commonly include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, or tests of brain electrical activity and blood flow.
New brain imaging technology in use at Sharp hospitals
Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Memorial Hospital also use computed tomography perfusion (CTP) imaging, which shows the areas of the brain that are adequately supplied with blood. CTP scans are analyzed by RAPID® brain imaging software, which almost instantly provides care providers with information about the type of stroke a person is having and assesses how much tissue can be saved.
“The CTP scans are completed as an emergency diagnostic tool for patients presenting with stroke symptoms,” says Lindsey Lehman, FNP-MSN, stroke program manager at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “CTP combined with RAPID software allows us to expand the treatment window for patients with disabling strokes that weren't previously considered for endovascular therapy.”
New opportunities for stroke treatment
Endovascular therapy is a nonsurgical treatment for the sudden loss of brain function due to stroke. The treatment is performed to stop the blockage of blood to the brain before it causes the brain tissue to die, thereby maintaining brain function and improving outcome. In the past, it was believed that all stroke patients must receive endovascular therapy within six hours of the onset of stroke to recover.
While this may be true for many stroke patients — and emergency care should always be sought — CTP imaging analyzed by RAPID software can identify patients’ eligibility for thrombectomy — mechanically removing a blood vessel clot — beyond the normal six-hour window and up to 24 hours after stroke for some patients.
The potential of an expanded window of time to treat a stroke patient with thrombectomy means that more people might have a greater chance for recovery. A recent study found that 45% of thrombectomy patients achieved independent functioning versus 17% of stroke patients who did not receive the procedure.
According to Lehman, CTP scans are completed on patients meeting the criteria outlined in the hospital’s clinical practice guidelines established by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.
“Across the Sharp system, this technology has helped to improve the lives of our stroke patients by decreasing the amount of disability caused by strokes and allowing patients to return home, rather than to care facilities, after their stroke,” she says.
Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Memorial Hospital have each earned the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. Sharp Chula Vista, Sharp Memorial and Sharp Grossmont have been certified as Primary Stroke Centers and Sharp Coronado is an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital. All are certified by The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit certification and accreditation organization.