SGCMH ER urges residents to know signs of stroke
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death, and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States. Dr. Matt Gibfried, emergency room physician at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital says it’s extremely important to recognize stroke symptoms and get the appropriate treatment as early as possible to minimize the possible damage that can be done from stroke.
“The signs of a stroke are different for different patients,” said Dr. Gibfried. “They can range from anything as severe as a total loss of ability to move one side of the body or the other and loss of the ability to communicate, to something as minor as a little drooping on one side of the face or some mild confusion. So the symptoms vary greatly from one patient to another.”
He explained that the acronym F.A.S.T makes for an easy tool to identify the signs of a stroke:
● Facial Drooping-- numbness or weakness, especially on one side
● Arm numbness or weakness, especially only on one side of the body
● Speech slurred or difficulty speaking, understanding or sudden confusion
● Time to call 911 -- especially if there is a sudden loss of vision, loss of balance with dizziness or severe headache
“Do not dismiss any sort of neurological symptoms or symptoms that even have a small possibility of being a stroke,” he said. “It’s important to be evaluated as soon as possible.”
Even minor, intermittent stroke symptoms should be checked out immediately.
“TIA’s are a term we use for transient ischemic attack, which means a mini stroke,” explained Dr. Gibfried. “TIA’s are usually stroke-like symptoms, but they don’t last very long and they can be warnings of a bigger, future stroke. So it’s good to be checked out even if these symptoms last a very short time. If a patient comes to the ER and they just had symptoms that could be attributed to a TIA, we run a full set of tests to see if there is any reason to believe that they are at an increased risk for a future stroke, and start them on a treatment to reduce their risk factors.”
Depending on what the underlying risk factors are Dr. Gibfried says there are many treatments available to lower the risk of stroke.
“These treatments might include aspirin or Plavix, which are anti-platelet blood thinners that are relatively easy to take,” he explained. “Other people might need their cholesterol lowered, so we may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering statin. Even getting blood pressure under control can reduce a patient’s risk for stroke.”
Dr. Gibfried said in the last 10-20 years, there have been major breakthroughs in multiple areas of stroke treatment.
“There have been improvements all the way from stroke prevention to treatment,” he said. “Often times it’s not unusual to have someone come in with a debilitating stroke receive appropriate treatment and walk out of the hospital in good health. The key is timing. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.”
“SGCMH is an excellent place to receive treatment for a stroke and we have direct relationships with some of the larger hospitals that can provide the more specialized care that is needed in a small percentage of cases,” said Dr.Gibfried. “We are equipped to provide life-saving treatment during that “golden hour,” the first 60 minutes following a stroke, which is so vitally important to positive outcomes.”
Laura Bailey, BSN, RN, SGCMH ER Director, agreed with Dr. Gibfried.
“Area residents should take comfort in knowing that our hospital emergency department has protocols in place to make sure stroke and heart attack patients receive the proper care from the moment they arrive.”