FAST thinking and dialing 911 can reduce stroke damage
What is a stroke?
A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident, affects the blood vessels in your brain. A stroke can happen when either a blood vessel breaks causing bleeding into the brain or more commonly (about 85% of the time) a blood vessel is blocked, depriving the brain of blood flow. Without flowing blood brain cells rapidly run out of oxygen and die.
The good news is, rapid treatment can reduce or even reverse the damage caused by a stroke — but time is critical. As they say, “Time is brain.” In other words, the more quickly a stroke is recognized and treated, the better the chances of preserving brain function.
Use FAST to spot a stroke
Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. “FAST” can help:
F = Face: Ask the person to smile and notice whether one side of his or her face droops.
A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and notice whether one drifts down or hardly moves at all.
S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and notice whether the speech is slurred or sounds odd. Do they understand you or are they hard to understand?
T = Time: If you see any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately. Also, take note of the time when the symptoms first appeared and give it to the ambulance team.
Other signs of stroke
Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly. Other signs can include numbness (especially on one side of the body), confusion, difficulty understanding speech, trouble seeing, sudden loss of balance, sudden severe dizziness, or sudden and severe headache. Even so-called “mini strokes”, or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) should be treated as medical emergencies, because they increase the risk of major stroke.
Get treatment FAST
It’s worth repeating: If you see the signs of suspected stroke, call 9-1-1 for an ambulance. This is true even if the symptoms seem to go away. An ambulance is the fastest way to get medical treatment.
Do not attempt to drive yourself or another person to the hospital. If you try to drive yourself, you could become unconscious behind the wheel. Plus, the emergency medical services (EMS) teams can save valuable time by starting life-saving procedures in the ambulance on the way to the hospital emergency room.
The ambulance crew can take patients directly to hospitals that have advanced stroke care, and they can call the hospital while they are on the way so the stroke team can be ready when the patient arrives. When administered promptly, the clot-busting drug tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, can save lives and reduce the long-term effects of ischemic stroke, providing the best possible chance of full recovery.
Lancaster General Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as a Primary Stroke Center.