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Do You Know What to Do If You Think You Are Having a Stroke or a Mini-Stroke?

By Dr. Harvey Gilbert, MD
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If you think you are having a stroke or a mini-stroke, call 911 immediately. The earlier you get to the emergency room, the greater the chances that you will receive the proper treatment, which can minimize and even reverse the long-term consequences of any kind of stroke. After you call the ambulance, be ready to answer the following questions, which will help the doctors select the best treatment for you:

  • What time did your symptoms start?
  • What is your complete medical history? (Keep a copy of this on hand at home.)
  • Have you ever had a stroke?
  • Have you ever had bleeding inside your brain?
  • Do you have any metal inside your body? (Doctors need to know this to decide whether your head can be imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses a powerful magnet. Common metal items include pacemakers, joint prostheses, dental work and even bullet fragments.)
  • What medications and supplements do you take on a regular basis?
  • Do you suffer from a bleeding disorder?

Because most strokes are mini-strokes, they may not be recognized for what they are. Obvious strokes are usually recognized by the patients; between 29 and 65% present through the emergency medical systems (EMS) teams. In most cases, EMS providers are responsible for the admission of the patients who go to an emergency room. Twenty to sixty percent of patients present within three hours of a stroke and 14 to 32% present within two hours of a stroke. Most calls for care are made by a family member or caregiver. The earlier the patient can access proper therapy following a stroke, the better.

EMS providers in the field include physical findings and blood glucose determinations to assess patients. These assessments take only thirty to sixty seconds to perform by a trained individual. The first step is resuscitation, stabilization, elimination of co-morbid conditions that can mimic stroke, and immediate transfer to a hospital.


Source: Harold P Adams, Jr. MD FAHA et al. Guidelines for the Early Management of Adults with Ischemic Stroke. Accessed on stroke.ahajournals.org. Published in Stroke, May 2007, pp. 1655"“1693.