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Stroke research: Recognition crucial for quick treatment

June 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every minute a stroke patient is delayed in getting to an emergency room to receive treatment, precious brain tissue is lost. That's why neurologists often say "time equals brain." Now a new major study gives new meaning to the phrase "every second counts."

Numerous studies show the earlier you get to an emergency room or certified comprehensive stroke center, the better your survival and recovery. Now for the first time, a team of UCLA researchers have measured minute-for-minute what early treatment patients can gain.

Dr. Neil Martin, co-director of the UCLA Stroke Center, says after reviewing the records of 58,000 stroke patients nationwide, researchers found that for every 15 minutes a stroke sufferer receives clot-busting drugs such as TPA, a patient is 4 percent more likely to walk at discharge; 4 percent less likely to suffer brain bleeding; and 4 percent less likely to die.

Four percent may not sound like a lot. But experts say that for every minute blood is blocked from reaching your brain, you lose 2 million neurons.

"These are really meaningful numbers, because you add that up over 30, 45 minutes, an hour, and then you have a profound difference," said Dr. Martin. "You have the difference between someone who is going to end up in a nursing home and someone who walks home."

The research underscores the need for people to learn how to spot a stroke.

Dr. Martin says remember the acronym "FAST."

"F" for facial drooping. Ask the person to smile and see if one side droops or is numb.

"A" is for arm weakness. Can they raise their arms?

"S" is for speech difficulty. Are they difficult to understand?

"And the 'T' is if those are present, it's time to call 911," said Martin.

Dr. Martin adds that if you suspect you're having a stroke, don't drive yourself. Call 911. Paramedics are trained to get stroke patients to the nearest comprehensive stroke center.

"Where a neurologist or a neurosurgeon can evaluate a patient immediately, get the required CT scan, and treat the patient early," said Martin.


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