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More than one-third of all U.S. stroke victims fail to call 911

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Prompt and immediate attention when paid to a person suffering a stroke greatly increases their survival and lessens their risk of personal disability afterwards. It is curious then, that one-third of all people who suffer a stroke fails to call 911 during the cardiac event. Many people are confused about the sudden onset of their symptoms and "don't want to be a bother," medical experts say.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Prompt diagnosis and early management is essential to decrease morbidity and mortality after stroke," lead researcher Dr. James Ekundayo, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Meharry Medical College in Nashville says.

"If about one-third does not arrive by ambulance, the implication is that they will have delayed evaluation and treatment with lifesaving drugs," Ekundayo said.

Those who suffer an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain have survived and thrived following the application of clot-busting drugs within two hours of symptom onset. The drugs also greatly reduce the odds of disability three months afterwards. Ischemic stroke is more common than hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain.

The study, "Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes," looked at how more than 200,000 stroke patients arrived at hospital emergency rooms from 2003 to 2010. About 64 percent arrived by ambulance and the rest used other forms of transportation, the researchers found.

Patients who used emergency medical services (EMS) had shorter pre-hospital and in-hospital delays, the study found. Time to treatment is faster partly because EMS notifies the receiving hospital about the patient, "and the emergency room staff is ready to act as soon as the patient arrives," Ekundayo says.

Calls to EMS were less frequent among minority groups and in rural areas, the researchers found.

Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said this study "amplifies the need to call 911 if you think you are having a stroke."

"Time is brain," the saying goes, meaning the faster a stroke patient gets to the hospital, the better the outcome. Among patients who arrived within two hours of symptoms starting, 79 percent had come by ambulance.

About 61 percent who called 911 got to the hospital within three hours, as opposed to 40 percent who didn't.

Stroke victims who didn't call 911 were likely to say they didn't want to be a bother, or they didn't recognize the severity of the symptoms, the study authors said.

Experts recommend using the acronym F.A.S.T. as a simple way to remember the symptoms of a stroke. Here are the signs:

Face drooping: Is one side of the face drooping, or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?

Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, or is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Can the person repeat a simple sentence, such as "The sky is blue"?

Time to call 911: If any of these symptoms exist -- even if they go away -- call 911 and get the person to a hospital immediately.

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