OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center

Alton, Illinois

Stroke: Be Prepared to Act Fast

The keys to surviving a stroke are early detection and immediate emergency treatment. Time loss equals brain loss. Symptoms are sometimes dramatic but not always. In fact, the person having a stroke may not know and/or be in denial.

A stroke generally occurs when normal blood flow to the brain has been blocked because of diseased blood vessels and/or a blood clot. This is known as an ischemic stroke, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of cases.

Other causes include:  intracerebral hemorrhage, a sudden rupture of an artery inside the brain, or by a subarachnoid hemorrhage, the rupture of an artery that leads to blood filling spaces surrounding the brain.

When a patient with an ischemic stroke gets to the hospital quickly enough (within the first three hours), clot-dissolving medications can be administered to get the blood flowing again.

If You Suspect a Stroke, Remember: FAST

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their 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?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Other signs include sudden confusion, loss of balance, change in vision, dizziness or severe headache with no known cause.

One of the most powerful warning signs is a TIA -- transient ischemic attack -- or mini-stroke. Typically, a TIA will involve one or more stroke symptoms that pass within a short period.

Risk Factors for Stroke Include

  • Age: after age 55, the risk of stroke doubles with each passing decade.
  • Carotid artery disease: When the carotid arteries supplying blood to the brain become blocked.
  • Blood pressure: Persons with uncontrolled hypertension are seven times more likely to have a stroke than those who keep their blood pressure under control.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes more than doubles your risk.
  • Atrial fibrillation (AF): an abnormal heart rhythm increases the risk of blood clots, which are a frequent cause of stroke. AF increases your risk about five times, no matter how severe the symptoms.
  • Ethnic background: African-Americans are considered a high risk population.
  • Previous stroke: About 25 percent of those who survive a stroke will have another within the next five years.

If you live alone and know you have a high risk, keep in mind that any sudden deficits caused by a stroke could make it difficult or impossible for you to reach the phone to call 911 – keep a phone close to you. Even if your speech becomes gibberish, the dispatcher might be able to trace your call and send emergency personnel.

At OSF Saint Anthony’s, patients suffering from stroke or any other neurologic emergency have immediate 24/7/365 access to board certified, fellowship trained neurologists via telemedicine.

After assessment by an emergency room physician, the neurologists are contacted and within 15 minutes they have reviewed the patient’s CT scan and are evaluating the patient via high definition computerized workstation.

OSF Saint Anthony’s is also a member of the Mid America Stroke Network. Launched by Saint Louis University Hospital in 2008, the Network is committed to providing current and clinically-effective stroke care to patients in the member hospitals’ respective communities. The Network is the first and only one of its kind in the region.