Acting FAST When Spotting Stroke Symptoms
Clinton Memorial Hospital recently achieved advanced certification from The Joint Commission, our national hospital accreditation agency, as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital. As the Assistant Medical Director of Emergency Services at CMH, and now Medical Director for the stroke program, and I’m so encouraged by CMH’s commitment to life-saving emergency intervention at home. Stroke can strike quickly, and spotting symptoms immediately is critical to a patient’s prognosis.
Stoke is, quite simply, a “brain attack,” much in the way we think of a heart attack. It occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off. The loss in blood flow to the brain causes brain cells to die, and abilities typically controlled by the areas of the brain not receiving blood are lost—such as memory and muscle control. Stroke severity depends entirely on the areas of the brain impacted—for some, a stroke may be minor and a full recovery is possible, whereas for others, a stroke may mean permanent loss of motor skills, speech, or even death. More than 2/3 of stroke survivors will have some form of disability following a stroke.
Strokes are serious—and more common than we think. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.
Why is it important to spot a stroke quickly? According to the National Stroke Association, for each minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain is impeded, a person loses about 1.9 million neurons. This could result in temporary or permanent losses to speech, movement, memory, and much more. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke and immediately calling 9-1-1, you ensure medical help is received as quickly as possible.
What are the signs and symptoms of stroke?
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you spot any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and let them know you’re concerned your loved one is experiencing a stroke. Make sure to note the time of the first symptom—as this information is important to emergency providers and can affect treatment decisions.
We always encourage people to remember the warning signs of stroke and act F-A-S-T:
FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Once a patient arrives to CMH, our emergency team has three primary objectives that must be completed as quickly as possible: a CT scan of the head, lab results, telemedicine consult with the University of Cincinnati stroke team, and the administration of life-saving thrombolytic medication (used to break up and dissolve blood clots). By watching out for stroke symptoms and calling 9-1-1 immediately, you can help us save lives.
About Lori Niceley, DO
Dr. Lori Niceley is Assistant Medical Director of Emergency Services at CMH Regional Health System, and Medical Director of CMH’s newly certified Acute Stroke Program. She received her medical degree from University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences/College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (UOMHS/COMS) in Des Moines, Iowa and completed a residency at Michigan State University Emergency Medicine Residency program in Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Niceley is a Fellow of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and has over twenty years of emergency medicine experience. Prior to coming to CMH, Dr. Niceley spent ten years practicing emergency medicine at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, OH.