Caring Currents

Suspect a Stroke? Call 911

Last updated: Aug 11, 2008

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When someone's having a stroke, every second counts. But according to a report in the current issue of Stroke , most stroke victims don't get treatment quickly enough. The study had some other interesting findings:

  • People were treated more quickly when they arrived by ambulance.
  • Treatment was faster in hospitals that were certified stroke centers.
  • Women were less likely than men to get timely treatment.

What does "timely treatment" mean? The clock starts ticking the moment a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain. The clot-busting drug tPA can limit brain damage, but there's a catch: The drug needs to be given within the first three hours.

Here's what you should know if you or someone you're caring for is at risk for a stroke:

Know the signs of stroke. I've listed the warning signs before , but they're worth repeating:

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

Call 911 at the very first sign. There may be a delay between arriving at the hospital and getting treatment, so it's best to get there within two hours.

Ask for transport to a certified stroke center , if possible. But if a nearby hospital doesn't have a stroke center, don't panic: the most important thing is to get to any hospital right away.

Don't dismiss possible signs of stroke, especially in women. Don't wait to see if symptoms improve. Even if you're not sure it's a stroke, call 911.

That's the take-home message: Call 911 if you suspect a stroke, even if the person tries to talk you out of it. Call because you care.

Image by flickr user Paul Keleher used under the Creative Commons attribution license.