The importance of recognizing stroke symptoms

Did you know that anyone can have a stroke? In fact, in the United States, stroke is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability, according to the American Stroke Association. Someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States, and every four minutes someone dies as a result. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of strokes are preventable by reducing risk factors and using currently available therapies. At Main Line Health we want you to understand the warning signs of a stroke that can help you save a life.

Know the signs of stroke and act in time

Watch for these signs and symptoms if you think you or someone else is having a stroke. There can be a range of symptoms from barely noticeable difficulties moving and speaking to paralysis. Do not wait for the symptoms to worsen or improve. If you think you are having a stroke—or if someone you know is having stroke—call 911 immediately.

  • Sudden paralysis, numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, swallowing or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Think FAST

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to fluctuate or disappear. Think “FAST” and do the following:

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to raise up?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is her or her speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Time lost is brain lost.

Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms of a warning stroke or “mini stroke”

Many people ignore stroke symptoms when they disappear quickly during a “mini stroke” because a TIA or “mini stroke” does not leave any permanent damage. Typically, a “mini stroke” lasts for about one to five minutes, with symptoms that are the same as those of a full-blown stroke. The only difference between a TIA “mini stroke” and a full-blown stroke is that with the TIA the blockage is temporary:

  • At least 40 percent of the people who have a “mini stroke” will have a full-blown stroke within 90 days to a year.
  • Nearly half of all full-blown strokes occur within the first few days of a TIA “mini stroke”.
  • The goal of TIA management is to prevent a future stroke. Your medical team can identify your medical and lifestyle risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight and obesity, heart and vascular disease and create a stroke prevention plan.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so that part of the brain and brain cells die.

Time is brain for ischemic strokes caused by a clot

For strokes caused by a clot, ischemic strokes, there is only a three-hour window of opportunity to administer tPA, tissue plasminogen activator, the medication that functions as a “clot buster”, breaking up the clot that is disrupting blood flow to the brain. If tPA is effective in dissolving the blood clot, no minimally-invasive neurointerventional procedure is required. If the tPA does not work, you may need a procedure to remove the blood clot.

Strokes caused by bleeding

Hemorrhagic strokes are not as common as strokes caused by a blood clot, but cause death more often than ischemic strokes. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel, either an aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), ruptures and bleeds into the brain. The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them. Hemorrhagic strokes that are caused by bleeding cannot be treated with tPA because it causes even more bleeding. Instead, they are treated with other neurointerventional procedures such as coiling.

Stroke rehabilitation services

Many stroke patients require rehabilitation after receiving acute stroke care. The most rapid improvement in stroke recovery usually occurs in the first few months after the stroke and the stroke treatment and therapy plans we develop help patients immediately build upon their strengths and learn to compensate for any limitations.

Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital excels in complex stroke treatment and we care for more than 600 stroke patients each year, using traditional and non-traditional modalities to support our stroke patients in their recovery.

Why Main Line Health for stroke care?

Our Four Primary Stroke Centers Have Achieved the Gold Standard

Main Line Health treats more than 3,000 stroke patients each year at our four acute care hospitals and Main Line Health Stroke Centers have met stringent quality standards for stroke treatment set by the Joint Commission as well as those of the American Heart Association.

We are pioneers in stroke treatment and surgery

At Main Line Health our advanced neurodiagnostic imaging procedures determine the precise location of the clot or bleed in your brain, allowing us to perform immediate therapies to stabilize vital functions, manage intracranial and blood pressures and administer intravenous and intra-arterial clot-busting t-PA medication for ischemic stroke if your stroke has happened within the three-hour window for tPA. For strokes whose onset has been longer than three hours, if the tPA has not been effective and the clot requires removal or if you have experienced a hemorrhagic stroke (bleed type), brain aneurysm or AVM that needs repair Main Line Health offers an endovascular surgical procedure and our neurosurgical care lab has the expertise to perform various procedures including angioplasty, stenting and other surgery to correct the causes of clots and bleeds.

We are members of the Jefferson Hospital Neuroscience Network

When every second counts in treating stroke, you reduce the possibility of disability with faster intervention from less travel time to emergency medical care without sacrificing expertise. The Neurointerventional Care Lab, located at Bryn Mawr Hospital, is the only one of its kind in the western Philadelphia suburbs. It is staffed by Jefferson neurosurgeons 24/7 who perform complex and minimally invasive neurovascular procedures and life-saving stroke services including Intra Arterial tPA, Endovascular coiling for hemorrhagic stroke, Angioplasty and stenting, and Merci Retrieval clot removal close to home.

Call 911 if you believe you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency. For more information about stroke care at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654).