Jeremy Payne, M.D., is the medical director of Banner Good Samaritan Stroke Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
In stroke care, the term golden hour is used to designate the hour immediately following the onset of stroke symptoms. (Trauma centers use the general term golden hourto indicate the first hour after a trauma has occurred.)
The reason it's "golden" is that stroke patients have a much greater chance of surviving and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at the hospital and receive treatment within that first hour.
Even more specifically, treatment within the golden hour is more successful because patients are candidates for the powerful clot-busting drug known as tPA (short for tissue plasminogen activator), which must be given within the first few hours after a stroke.
For that reason, it's important to be aware of the symptoms that should send you to the emergency room to take advantage of the golden hour: A feeling of numbness, palsy, or paralysis on one side of your body; speech problems such as slurring or not being able to think of or form words; or blurred or blocked vision in one eye are the most common. Some people also have an extreme headache that starts suddenly.
The American Heart Association (AHA) this year announced the results of a large study showing that if you arrive at the hospital within the golden hour, you double your chances of receiving tPA. The study reviewed patients from hospitals participating in the AHA's Get With the Guidelines"“Stroke program and found that 28 percent of patients who arrived within the first hour received tPA, while only 13 percent of those arriving between two and three hours after having a stroke received the drug.