Treating Stroke: How to Reduce the Damage

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Summary & Participants

If you or someone you know is at risk of stroke, it is crucial to recognize that successful stroke treatment depends on quick action. The sooner you can get treatment, the better chance you have of reducing damage to your brain. Our panel of experts will discuss the treatments available for acute stroke, and how to make sure you receive them in time if you are suffering an attack.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

PAUL J. MONIZ: I'm Paul Moniz. Thank you for being with us on this webcast. Today's topic is stroke, more specifically what it means to suffer an acute stroke. We have all heard the expression "time is money." Well, when it comes to stroke care "time is brain," specifically your brain. The longer you wait to get help, the better your chances are of becoming brain injured and/or paralyzed.

It may surprise you to learn a stroke can actually be in the works a full week before you show any symptoms. Recognizing early warning signs is key to surviving this potential killer. Studies suggest that does not happen often enough with some patients waiting hours or even days to get help -- which is often too late.

Here to walk us through acute stroke are two specialists in the field. Dr. Ralph Sacco is the Associate Chairman of Neurology at Columbia University. Thank you for joining us.

Next to him is Dr. Dara Jamieson, a neurologist at Pennsylvania Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Jamieson, let's begin with you. What is meant by the term "acute stroke"?

DARA JAMIESON, MD: Acute stroke means that the process of brain damage is occurring by the minute. As far as the patient is concerned, the patient will notice the sudden onset of neurologic symptoms. One minute the patient may be home relaxing and all of a sudden the patient will notice an inability to move say the right side of her body and difficulty speaking. That's a patient who is having an acute stroke who needs to recognize those symptoms immediately, needs to get to the hospital immediately and get treatment immediately.

PAUL J. MONIZ: Walk us through, Dr. Sacco, what's happening. 911 is called. Hopefully, they are either calling right away -- we should bring that up right at the top. Don't wait.

RALPH L. SACCO, MD: Don't wait.

PAUL J. MONIZ: How quickly should they call? Two minutes after symptoms? How important is that call?

RALPH L. SACCO, MD: If you have these neurologic symptoms that Dr. Jamieson just mentioned, then you need to call right away. You don't want to wait. The key for stroke treatment is less than three hours. That's why we use the term "time is brain." The best effective therapy we have only works if you get it within three hours.

So the person calls 911. In most cities, 911 gets there right away and gets them to the nearest hospital. At the hospital they'll be stabilized in transport and then the key is to find out what kind of stroke it is. So often a brain scan is done. That brain scan can tell us whether it's a bleeding stroke or an ischemic stroke.

If it's one of the ischemic strokes, which are the majority -- close to 85 percent -- then maybe you would be a candidate for these clot-busting medicines to reduce the damage from stroke and improve outcome.

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