Each week, Thomas Mulgrew, a neurologist at St. Peter’s Hospital, sees approximately two new acute stroke cases. From his practice alone, more than 100 families in Lewis and Clark County are affected by stroke each year.
Since cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) is the No. 1 cause of death, and stroke is the leading cause of long-term adult disability, the impact on stroke victims and their families can be life-changing. Only about 10 percent of stroke survivors recover almost completely, according to the National Stroke Association.
“People may know that stroke is a brain attack that can cause death, but they don’t realize it is also a foremost reason for people to be placed in a nursing home,” said Dr. Mulgrew.
Preventing lasting disability from stroke can depend on receiving immediate treatment.
“It is critical to initiate medical treatment right away if someone has signs of a stroke,” said Dr. Mulgrew. “The sooner a person gets to the hospital, the better the patient does.” Calling 9-1-1 immediately can help ensure fast treatment.
Effective treatments can help treat stroke and reduce the risk of disability. At St. Peter’s Hospital, the most common treatment is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) delivered by IV. This is an enzyme found naturally in the body that helps dissolve blood clots. Most strokes are caused by a clot that starves brain tissue of blood flow and oxygen. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends that tPA be given within three hours from the time symptoms begin, so any delay can make the patient ineligible for the drug.
Since time is the most decisive factor for tPA treatment to be used, Dr. Mulgrew makes it clear that calling 9-1-1 is the fastest way to receive the best medical treatment for stroke. The ambulance crew will alert the stroke team at St. Peter’s. After intensive care and recovery, a team concentrates on a stroke survivor’s needs in physical and occupational therapy. For many of those who get fast treatment, rehabilitation may be much less extensive.
DPHHS encourages everyone to use this “Stroke Test” to help identify the signs of an oncoming stroke:
• Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop, look crooked or not move?
• Ask the person to repeat a sentence. Are the words inappropriate or slurred?
• Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm seem to drift or not move?
• If yes to any of these tests, call 911 immediately.
To learn more about stroke, visit http://www.strokeassociation.org or call 1-888-478-7653).