Would you be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke? Do you know what to do if you suspect that you or a family member is having one?
Co-Directors of the Stony Brook University Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center, Henry Woo, MD, and David Fiorella, MD, PhD, have also been instrumental in pioneering treatments and devices for stroke such as the newest generation of stentriever devices and aspiration catheters to remove blood clots from the brain. They are also leading the way in offering new clinical trials for acute stroke treatment. And in honor of Stroke Awareness Month, which begins May 1, they are spreading the word and raising awareness of the important signs and symptoms of stroke that everyone should know.
First, Dr. Fiorella says there are two kinds of strokes that everyone should know about- ischemic, in which a blockage prevents blood flow to the brain, and hemorrhagic, where there is bleeding in or around the brain.
"Ischemic strokes are the most common, occurring in about 80 percent of cases in Suffolk County," said David Fiorella, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurological Surgery and Radiology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine and neurointerventional radiologist. "Both kinds can be either acute or chronic. Acute stroke generally signifies the sudden onset of symptoms, indicating that you are indeed having a stroke. Chronic stroke indicates the presence of factors that could eventually cause a stroke, such as a blockage or an un-ruptured aneurysm. In these cases, if detected in time and treated, stroke can be prevented."
Signs of ischemic stroke include paralysis, particularly on one side of the body, difficulty with speech or vision, overall weakness and/or total loss of consciousness.
"People also may experience more subtle signs, such as numbness and tingling, which may indicate what is commonly called a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA)," said Henry Woo, MD, Professor of Neurological Surgery and Radiology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine and endovascular neurosurgeon. "Although TIAs tend to quickly resolve themselves, they are often a precursor to a major stroke, so it's important to take them seriously and see a doctor if you suspect you have had one."
The signs of a hemorrhagic stroke are more dramatic and painful and can include the sudden onset of a headache, often described as the worst headache of your life.
Stroke can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, and is the fourth-leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States behind heart disease, chronic lung disease and cancer. Fortunately, between 1998 and 2008, the stroke death rate fell 34.8 percent due to improved treatments and increased awareness of the signs.
Only about two out of three Americans can correctly identify at least one warning sign of stroke. To improve that statistic there is a quick and easy acronym -- F.A.S.T., which stands for: F -- Face Drooping A -- Arm Weakness S -- Speech Difficulty T -- Time to Call 9-1-1
"Speed of treatment is crucial," said Dr. Woo, "people are seeking treatment faster -- and, more critically, at the right place -- a healthcare facility that's been certified as a primary stroke center."
The Stony Brook University Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center is certified by The Joint Commission and the New York State Department of Health as an advanced primary stroke center. The Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center offers specialized and highly trained endovascular teams; the latest equipment; leading-edge procedures, including every FDA-approved minimally invasive stroke intervention technique; high-tech diagnostics; and access to major ongoing clinical trials.
"If you suspect you're having a stroke, get immediate help -- call 9-1-1." said Dr. Fiorella. "Alert the operator that you are having symptoms of a stroke. Ask to be taken to a primary stroke center, where appropriate and efficient protocols are in place, the latest interventions are available 24/7 and your medical team is experienced and highly trained."
"For the hundreds of Long Islanders who do survive a stroke, it's a struggle to recover from its debilitating impact," said Eileen Conlon, RN, Stroke Program Coordinator, Stony Brook University Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center. "Stony Brook's Stroke Support Group, which is facilitated by a stroke survivor, can help."
At the Stroke Support Group survivors will receive encouragement, feedback and inspiration from others who can relate to your situation; gain more knowledge from expert speakers; and learn about many programs and resources that can help.
"While we hope that you or someone you love never has to experience a stroke," said Dr. Fiorella. "It's important to know that Suffolk County's only academic medical center is leading the way in stroke care for thousands of patients in our community and across the country."
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