Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of disability. In recognition of Stroke Awareness Month, Dr. Michael J. Vecchione, the medical director of Newport Hospital’s Stroke Program, answers common questions about stroke and what being a Primary Stroke Center means.
What are the symptoms of stroke?
The symptoms of stroke are very variable depending on what part of the brain is affected. Stroke happens when there is a sudden stoppage of blood flow to the brain. When this happens the person experiencing a stroke will complain of the ‘sudden’ onset of neurological symptoms. The most common symptoms include a sudden onset of: weakness or loss of sensation to one side of the face, arm, and/or leg, inability to speak or slurring of the words, difficulty with balance or walking, loss of vision or double vision, or a sudden onset of dizziness or vertigo (a sense of room spinning). Less common, but associated symptoms include: sudden onset of severe headache, nausea and vomiting, and acute loss of vision in one eye.
What should someone do if they suspect someone is having a stroke?
If you are experiencing the above problems and feel you are having a stroke, you or someone with you should call 911 immediately. You should not drive yourself to the hospital. When possible, you should be brought to the nearest hospital that is a Certified Stroke Center.
How is stroke treated?
Stroke is treated in many ways. A patient presenting to the hospital will be quickly assessed by the ER physicians and the nursing staff. Blood tests and a CT of the brain will be done as quickly as possible to help further the diagnosis of stroke and direct the proper treatment. Up to 80 percent of strokes involve the blockage of a blood vessel by a clot resulting in that part of the brain dying. For this type of stroke, there is a medicine called tPA (tissue plasimogen activator) that can be given to dissolve the clot and hopefully restore blood supply to the brain. Time is very important in receiving this medicine, so the faster a person is treated, typically the better the outcome. The other major type of stroke (20 percent) is due to a breaking of a blood vessel in the brain resulting in a blood clot forming inside the brain. This type of stroke is often due to underlying high blood pressure. It is treated by neurologists and neurosurgeons using a variety of other measures including medications and procedures.
How can people prevent strokes?
The single best way to prevent strokes is by maintaining good control of blood pressure. Blood pressures less than 140/90 are recommended and less than 130/80 maybe better in some people. The other way to prevent stroke is by keeping your cholesterol level low especially the ‘bad cholesterol’ called LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), not smoking, controlling your diabetes, controlling your weight, and exercising routinely. Some risk factors like a family history of stroke and advancing age cannot be changed.
Newport Hospital is designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. Why is this important and what does it mean?
Being certified by the Joint Commission, means that a hospital has met national standards for the quality treatment of those suffering from stroke. Newport Hospital became certified as a Primary Stroke Center in 2012 and has maintained its certification since by continuing these standards.