If You Suspect a Stroke, Get Help FAST

May 18, 2016
FAST

Most strokes are caused by a blocked artery in the brain preventing blood flow and oxygen delivery.  Without needed oxygen, those brain cells die. At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, we use tPA, a ”clot-busting” medication, however it must be administered within 4.5 hours from stroke onset. After that period of time, we will continue to reduce the impact of a stroke and work with you on rehabilitation and prevention of a second stroke. But rapidly administering tPA is the most effective treatment. If the patient arrives at the hospital in time, the tPA almost doubles their chances of surviving a stroke without disability. So it's easy to see why getting help FAST is important to reduce the risk of long-term effects from a stroke.

The first step toward getting help is to recognize that someone is having a stroke and then to call 911. An easy way to recognize stroke is by using the FAST exam.

As soon as NHRMC gets the call, we begin preparations at the hospital to receive the stroke patient. When the patient arrives at our hospital, the team will be in position to deliver immediate, possibly lifesaving treatment.

Our Emergency Department team, neurologist, stroke nurse and pharmacist will be standing by to help as soon as the patient is wheeled through the doors. A radiology room will be cleared and ready for immediate testing. 

NHRMC also features the facilities and therapists needed for stroke rehabilitation.

Our rehab program will focus not just on the physical aspects of rehabilitation, but also on the emotional challenges that come from diminished movement or function. Stroke rehab can include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Remember, the key is to recognize the signs of stroke and act F.A.S.T. to prevent permanent damage. The sooner you call for help, the more likely they are to recover fully.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, previous stroke, obesity, smoking and alcohol use. Factors like age, gender, ethnicity and family history also play a role. Knowing your risk factors and taking steps to address them is an important part of stroke prevention.

Learn this acronym, FAST:

Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?

Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?

Speech difficulty: Slurred or difficult speech is a sign of stroke. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 so emergency personnel can be dispatched to help.

The EMS teams at New Hanover Regional Medical Center are specially trained to identify and treat stroke patients. Once a patient has been diagnosed, EMS will alert the stroke team at the hospital. 

NHRMC Stroke Center Recognized for Accomplishments

New Hanover Regional Medical Center has received Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers from The Joint Commission, a recognition that means NHRMC implements the best practices for stroke care and has met and seeks to maintain the Joint Commission’s high standards in providing stroke care.

The review resulted in NHRMC also earning The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark, which represent excellence in quality.

 NHRMC has also earned the 2016 Get With the Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus and Target: Stroke Elite Plus Honor Roll recognition from the American Heart Association . To be recognized as Elite Plus, hospitals must achieve time to intravenous thrombolytic therapy (tPA)of 60 minutes or less in 75 percent of stroke patients, in 45 minutes or less in 50% of stroke patients to improve quality of patient care and outcomes. NHRMC's median door-to-needle time is 34 minutes.

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