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PREVENT

'Time is brain' when it comes to stroke

You already know that strokes are serious. A stroke can cause devastating disability and death. But did you know that fast action on your part can help prevent death and minimize lasting disability?

A stroke is damage to a part of the brain caused by bleeding or, more commonly, an ischemic stroke. That's when a blood clot forms in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow in the brain, preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching a portion of the brain. 

The point of getting prompt treatment is to dissolve or remove the clot quickly enough to minimize damage. That's why if you suspect you or someone you know is having a stroke, get to a hospital immediately for diagnosis and treatment, because time is brain. 

Once at the hospital, a team of specialists including a neurologist, radiologist and emergency department physician assemble to identify the problem. If ischemic stroke is diagnosed they are able to choose from some very effective treatment options, but time is a critical factor.

One successful treatment for stroke is tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. It works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow. tPA has been around for about 20 years and has been shown to significantly increase the chances of disability-free survival if administered within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. The goal is even sooner than that.

Mechanical thrombectomy is another treatment for stroke. In this procedure, an interventional radiologist inserts a tiny catheter into the patient's artery, threads it up to the clot, then grabs the clot and removes it. This procedure can remove a clot in a matter of minutes.

Recent trials have shown mechanical thrombectomy to be a game changer in the treatment of stroke. We're seeing a remarkable improvement in patient recovery and survival if mechanical thrombectomy is used together with tPA within six hours of the onset of symptoms. 

Every stroke is different and the effects vary, depending on where the obstruction occurs, how much brain tissue is affected and how long blood flow is restricted. The actual treatment plan varies from patient to patient but the one constant is the importance of time—the faster treatment begins, the better the outcome for the patient. Minutes matter.

Quick facts:

  • 60 percent of stroke-related deaths occur in women.
  • Stroke is the #1 cause of disability in the US.
  • It's the fifth most common cause of death in the US, and the second biggest killer worldwide.

Fast action can greatly minimize the disabling aspects of stroke.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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