Toms River, N.J., March 5, 2009 – A
stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when a blood clot
blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks,
interrupting blood flow to the brain and killing brain cells in
the immediate area.
Within the region of poor blood flow, these cells die. Endangered
brain cells may be saved in a larger area where blood supply has
been compromised but not yet completely cut off. Without rapid
medical treatment – within three hours of the initial brain
attack – re-establishment of blood flow to the larger area
may fail and potentially cause further damage. That is why immediate
medical treatment at the first sign of stroke symptoms is so crucial.
“When brain cells die, body functions controlled by that
area of the brain are lost. This could include speech, movement,
memory and more,” said Gerald Ferencz, MD, neurologist board
certified in vascular neurology and medical director of the Primary
Stroke Center at Community Medical Center. “It is imperative
to seek urgent medical treatment at the onset of stroke, to prevent
further damage and complications.”
Dr. Ferencz said educating the public about brain attacks is essential
since time lost adversely limits the window of opportunity for
intervention. “Many stroke patients don’t seek help
or call 911 after the first onset of symptoms,” Dr. Ferencz
said. “By then, more serious damage can occur and the less
chance for a full recovery is possible.” The critical time
to seek attention is within the first couple of hours so that appropriate
medical evaluations and testing can be initiated.
One reason people delay treatment for a brain attack is the fact
they don’t even know they are having one, or are unaware
of the signs and symptoms. According to the National Stroke Association,
the five most common stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially
on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Other important, but less common stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden nausea, fever and vomiting distinguished from a viral
illness by the speed of onset (minutes or hours vs. several days)
- Brief loss of consciousness or period of decreased consciousness
(fainting, confusion, convulsions or coma)
“The reality is, stroke can be largely preventable,” Dr.
Ferencz said. “A stroke may happen to anyone and does require
emergency treatment, but there are many treatable medical disorders
and lifestyle changes that can substantially decrease one’s
risk for a brain attack.”
High blood pressure also called hypertension, heart disease, high
cholesterol, sleep disorders or apnea, smoking, excessive alcohol
consumption, excess weight and diabetes are all controllable stroke
In 2007, Community Medical Center was designated a Primary Stroke
Center by the Joint Commission and the New Jersey Department of
Health and Senior Services. Only facilities that adhere to very
stringent requirements achieve this designation.
As a Primary Stroke Center, patients who present to Community
Medical Center’s Emergency Department with signs and symptoms
of a stroke are immediately placed into the hospital’s Rapid
Stroke Assessment program. Under the guidelines of the program,
potential stroke patients are taken to a rapid assessment area
within the ED that was designated specifically for stroke and heart
attack patients. In this area, tests are performed and results
are received quickly.
Patients receive an immediate medical and nursing assessment,
CT scans, blood tests and ECG, an intravenous line and certain
medications. These protocols have been shown to be extremely beneficial
in quickly identifying a stroke, and even prevent ones that are
about to occur.
In addition, certain radiologic tests such as a CTA and MRI scan
may be conducted.
“Knowing the risk factors and warning signs of stroke can
go a long way in helping prevent a brain attack, as well as lessen
the damage done by one. Seeking urgent medical care at the onset
of symptoms is even more important,” said Dr. Ferencz. “Hopefully,
further education and awareness of stroke will help patients and
families affected by this condition.”
For more information on stroke, or referral to a physician, call
Community Medical Center at 1-888-724-7123 or visit www.barnabashealth.org.
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