Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Stroke facts
- What is a stroke?
- What causes a stroke?
- What are the risk factors for stroke?
- What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
- What is the impact of strokes?
- What are stroke symptoms?
- What should be done if you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke?
- How is a stroke diagnosed?
- What is the treatment of a stroke?
- Is surgical treatment done for strokes?
- What complications can occur after a stroke?
- What can be done to prevent a stroke?
- What is in the future for stroke treatment?
- Stroke FAQs
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What should be done if you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke?
If any of the symptoms mentioned above suddenly appear, immediate emergency medical attention should be sought. The first action should be to activate the emergency medical system in your area (call 9-1-1 if it is available). The goal is to get the stroke victim to a hospital as quickly as possible to confirm the diagnosis. An urgent medical decision is necessary in the emergency department to determine whether thrombolytic or clot-busting drugs can potentially reverse the stroke situation. There is a very limited window of opportunity from the onset of symptoms to when this therapy can be used. If delays occur, the opportunity to intervene is lost.
The first priority is ensuring that the ambulance arrives as soon as possible. First responders, EMTs and paramedics may be able to help make the diagnosis and alert the hospital about the stoke victim's situation.
While waiting for the ambulance, the following first aid suggestions may be helpful:
- The affected person should lie flat to promote an optimal blood flow to the brain.
- If drowsiness, unresponsiveness, or nausea are present, the person should be placed in the rescue position on their side to prevent choking should vomiting occur.
- Although aspirin plays a major role in stroke prevention (see below), once the symptoms of a stroke begin, it is generally recommended that additional aspirin not be taken until the patient receives medical attention. If stroke is of the bleeding type, aspirin could theoretically make matters worse. Moreover, patients with stroke may have swallowing difficulties and may choke on the pill.
Three commands, known as the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS), may help to determine if the potential for stroke exists. Ask the patient to do the following:
- Smile: the face should move symmetrically
- Raise both arms: looking for weakness on one side of the body
- Speak a simple sentence
If a potential stroke victim cannot perform these tasks, 9-1-1 should be called to activate the emergency medical system. Ideally, a person suspected of having as stroke or stroke-like symptoms should be taken to a hospital certified as a stroke treatment center.
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