May 4 is Stroke Alert Day
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Sometimes, even a severe stroke can have a happy ending. When Ruth Mitchell arrived at Loyola University Hospital's emergency room, her face was drooping, her left arm was weak, she couldn't walk and she was slurring her words. But because she received fast treatment with a clot-busting drug, Mitchell has experienced no significant lasting effects. She still can carry a load of laundry up the stairs. Mitchell, 82, is an example of how, in some cases, patients can significantly minimize the severity of strokes by receiving treatment within three hours of the first onset of symptoms, said Loyola stroke neurologist Dr. Michael Schneck, who treated Mitchell. Tuesday, May 4, is Stroke Alert day, when the public is urged to learn stroke warning signs and the importance of calling 911 immediately. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability. Unfortunately, many patients delay getting treatment. They often ignore symptoms or think the problem will go away on its own. Most strokes are caused by blood clots that clog arteries and block blood supply to parts of the brain. In such patients the drug tPA can dissolve clots and restore blood supple. tPA is most effective if given within three hours of beginning of stroke symptoms. Not all stroke candidates are candidates for tPA, For example, if a stroke is caused by a hemorrhage, the blood-thinning tPA can increase the bleeding. Before tPA can be safely administered, a patient must undergo a battery of tests including a neurological exam, EKG, CT scan, X-ray and blood tests. Within an hour after Mitchell arrived, all the tests had been completed and she was receiving tPA. Even among patients who do qualify for tPA and receive timely treatments, not all will do as well as Mitchell. But while getting to the emergency room immediately won't guarantee patients will make a full recovery, it will significantly improve their chances, Schneck said. Schneck is a professor in the Department of Neurology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Loyola provides specialized stroke care 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a multi-disciplinary team of stroke experts. The Stroke Center at Loyola has received the Gold Plus Seal of Approvalâ¢ for stroke care from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Many patients participate in clinical trials of the latest experimental therapies. Warning signs of stroke include sudden: Weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Numbness or tingling of the face or one side of the body. Confusion or trouble understanding. Trouble speaking. Trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Trouble walking; dizziness; loss of balance or coordination. Severe, unusual headaches. If you experience stroke symptoms, call 911 immediately. "Every second counts," Schneck said. "Time is brain."