Thursday, February 16, 2006

When stroke hits, call 911.

Two new studies show that getting an ambulance is the best way to receive quick, lifesaving treatment for patients suffering a stroke.

One study found that patients who dialed 911 to get an ambulance were seen by doctors within 30 minutes. Those who walked in were evaluated within 34 minutes and those who came by public transportation were not seen for 55 minutes.

Dr. Yousef M. Mohammed, director of the stroke fellowship program at Ohio State University, says the four-minute difference may seem insignificant. But he adds that "a stroke is an emergency, and 'time is brain.' If you walk in or come by car or taxi, we are losing valuable time here."

Seventy-three percent of those arriving by ambulance received brain imaging by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. Only 63 percent of the walk-ins and 60 percent of those arriving by other mean received these services.Moreover, 97 percent of ambulance arrivals were evaluated by a staff doctor, rather than a nurse, physician assistant or doctor-in training, compared to 89 percent of walk-ins and 82 percent of those arriving by other means.

People need to learn the warning signs of stroke and call 911 immediately if they think someone might be having a stroke.

When lights and sirens are blaring, "the floodgates open up and everyone pays attention," as opposed to a woman quietly pushing her husband in a wheelchair, said Dr. Joseph Broderick, a stroke expert from the University of Cincinnati.

The top warning signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, limbs, or one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or difficulty walking
  • Sudden severe headache

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