The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Stroke Awareness Month
As you may know, May is Stroke Awareness Month, serving to raise awareness about the warning signs of stroke, symptoms of a stroke, stoke prevention, and the impact of stroke on survivors, families and caregivers. It is for this reason that I wanted to everyone to be aware of this visual resource that highlights this important health information as well as the role of interventional radiologists in stroke identification and treatment.
There are an estimated 780,000 strokes occurring in the United States every year, making strokes the third leading cause of death and adult disability. Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, while every 4 minutes someone has passed away from the effects of a stroke. Many strokes may occur while a person is sleeping and may not even know they have had a stroke. Strokes are usually the result of a blood clot in the brain, preventing the blood stream from freely distributing oxygen to where it needs to go. Depending on the severity of the stroke, they may need to be taken to the hospital by ambulance or for much lighter strokes, they may not even fully be aware of the severity of the stroke. Regardless of a severe stroke or not, a hospital visit is recommended. Left untreated, permanent neurological damage which may appear in the form of physical or mental disabilities. It is dire that a stroke victim receive immediate treatment as soon as possible in order to attempt to reverse the damages.
Signs of a stroke may appear in a drooped face, slurred speech, inability to raise the left, right, or both arms, inability to walk, or inability to walk on the left or right leg. If a person feels overly hot or cold, as if they are going to pass out, or they feel dizzy when standing up, it is urgent that 911 be dialed immediately. It is a race against time to try and slow down the injuries and reverse the damage. Do not attempt to treat a stroke victim on your own. They need professional medical assistance. EMTs are normally equipped to deal with the situation until they can safely get the stroke victim to a hospital.
In recognizing a stroke victim, it is important that they remain lying down wherever they are in order to keep the blood flow circulating to and from the brain. Do not attempt to move them to another location. Doing so may result in permanent damages. Keep them as still as possible. Get pillows or anything that will keep them comfortable until help arrives. Do not attempt to give the stroke victim anything to eat or drink, or any medications, including aspirin. If the stroke victim is on any medications, it is extremely important to try and gather or note what these medicines are before help arrives. When citing information to the EMTs or medical staff, it is important to try and remember all activity within the past 24 to 48 hours, including any medications or foods that were ingested.
Taking over the counter medicine or prescription medications may cause high blood pressure or other internal problems that may be responsible for bringing on the stroke. Anything that may have caused shock or blood pressure to rise, even stating that there was an argument should be known. It is important to supply medical staff with as much information as possible to help them understand what happened so they can properly help the stroke victim. The stroke victim may be admitted to the neurosurgical intensive care unit, where they will remain for the next 24 hours of constant monitoring and medical neurological tests.
The infographic below sheds more light on how interventional radiology is used to diagnose and treat stroke patients and increase the window for treatment while reducing the pain of treatment and recovery time.
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Early Stroke Identification and Treatment With Interventional Radiology [Infographic]
Interventional Radiation (IR) is a treatment that helps to diagnose and treat stroke patients in a way that is less invasive and risk averse than other treatments. Pain and recovery time are reduced while the treatment period is extended. IR treatment technology becomes very important in light of the fact that strokes are deadly, and approximately 780,000 people suffer from a stroke each year in The United States of America (USA). Interventional Radiation is a great option for patients with stroke as it aims to help reduce the number of persons experiencing the debilitating effects of a stroke.
More About Strokes In The USA
Strokes occur whenever there is any interruption in the flow of blood to the body’s brain. This interruption is usually due to a blood clot. Strokes are so common in the USA that one occurs every 40 seconds, with one stroke-related death occurring approximately every 4 minutes. Due to the nature of a stroke, the longer a stroke goes undiagnosed and untreated, the greater the likelihood the patient will experience neurological damage. Currently, strokes are the third leading cause of adult disability and death. The immediate treatment of stroke patients is critical to reducing these devastating effects of a stroke. A Tissue Plasminogen Activator (t-PA) can be used to actively used to treat a stroke within three hours of its onset. Designated treatment centers are equipped to evaluate and treat strokes quickly, using IV t-pa.
What To Look For, Recognizing The Onset Of A Stroke
Of course, it is important that treatment specialists and patients alike know what the signs of a stroke are. This allows for a faster diagnosis and for effective treatment to be administered. For starters, there are two different kinds of strokes. 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic, while the other 85% of cases are ischemic. Whether strokes are ischemic or hemorrhagic, early recognition of the signs and symptoms is critical to reducing potential tissue damage and increasing chances of a full recovery. The acronym F.A.S.T. can help patients do just that. F.A.S.T. refers to the parts and functions of the body that patients must pay attention to in order to quickly recognize and respond to the onset of a stroke. These body parts and functions are Face (check to see if one side of the face droops), Arm (check if arms can be raised or if one arm stays hanging downward), Speech (check if the patient is slurring), and Time (emergency services should be contacted immediately if any of the above symptoms are present).
More About Interventional Radiology Stroke Treatment
The most important part of treatment where strokes are concerned is the speed at which help comes. As stated prior, if left untreated, strokes often result in permanent neurological damage. Thankfully, technology and treatment options have advanced. With that advancement comes rapid and effective response from medical practitioners and caregivers.
Interventional Radiology expands both the treatment window and treatment options for patients. Intervention Radiology uses two main instruments, a Mechanical Embolus Removal In Cerebral Ischemia Removal (a corkscrew-shaped mechanical device used during endovascular procedures for stroke patients) and a Penumbra System Thrombo-Aspiration Device (has an 82% recanalization success rate as it is used to suck out blood clots after a separator has been used to break up the same). A non-contrast computed tomography can be used to determine whether or not clot-dissolving medications are a suitable treatment solution given the circumstance(s).
Intervention Radiologists and After Intervention Stroke Care
Interventional Radiologists are likely to be a part of the first contact care team at the hospital where treating patients with a stroke are concerned. They not only help to treat and remove the blood clot using the instruments and methods above, they also take proactive steps to access what could have caused the blood clot in the first place and put preventative measures in place to stop the same from recurring.
After treatment care is just as important for stroke patients as the care they receive from the onset. It is this after treatment care that will keep patients healthy, and prevent other strokes from occurring. The step in after treatment care is that of medically supervised observation. In many cases, it may be required that the patient is admitted to the neurological intensive care unit of the hospital for a minimum 24-hour observation and monitoring (which may include neurological exams) to ensure he or she is clearly out of the woods. In other words, monitoring and observation is designed to ensure the safety of the patient and improve their chances of a full recovery. As such, the patient’s neurological status is thoroughly assessed in light of their condition.
When the patient is ready to be released from the hospital, discharge education is engaged. Discharge education ensures patients will be able to properly care for themselves, or that caregivers will be able properly assist. Discharge education includes prescribing a medication regimen and the necessary lifestyle modifications. After care lifestyle modification requirements may include changes in diet (where there may be restrictions in consuming certain foods), physical activity (regular moderate exercise may be encouraged), and counseling regarding the effects of behaviors like smoking or consuming excess amounts of alcohol on the probability of a stroke occurring or recurring (quitting smoking and drinking is usually recommended). With the lifestyle changes and other after care recommendations, patients increase their chances of staving off the occurrence for another stroke. Patients are also likely to improve their overall well being.