Stroke is the number-one cause of adult disability and the number-three cause of death in the United States. May is “Stroke Month,” and if you didn’t know, brain cells that do not have the proper amount of blood flow begin to die within minutes. It is reported that it takes just 12 minutes for a pea-sized area of brain to die during a stroke. Treatment is available! Do not wait!
The OSF Stroke Network is the largest rural stroke network in the nation, with over 20 Illinois hospitals working together to lead in the prevention, detection and treatment of strokes. It was developed in 1997 to assist rural hospitals in providing timely acute treatment to persons suffering brain attacks. With the Food and Drug Administration’s 1996 approval of a clot-busting medication known as t-PA, the network assists rural hospitals with access to 24/7 neurological expertise, treatment protocols and education needed to treat patients suffering brain attacks.
Early recognition of the signs of stroke and prompt medical attention at the closest hospital equipped to provide acute stroke diagnosis and treatment is critical for best recovery following a stroke.
Signs and symptoms include:
- weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding
- problems with vision, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
- dizziness or problems with balance or coordination
- problems with movement or walking
- severe headaches with no other known cause.
The development of the stroke network allows people residing in rural communities to go to hospitals near their homes. The process is called “Drip and Ship,” and it works just like the phrase says.
Persons with signs and symptoms of stroke present to the closest rural emergency department capable of recognizing and treating strokes. The emergency physician and staff will conduct the assessment and testing needed to diagnose a stroke. They begin by checking vital signs, obtaining blood samples and doing a CT scan of the patient’s head. Once the CT scan is done, the rural ER physician will contact the stroke neurologist on call at the OSF Stroke Network. Both physicians will discuss the presenting signs and symptoms, the CT results and the treatment options that may be offered.
If the symptoms and CT scan point to an ischemic (clot forming) stroke, the person will be screened for eligibility to receive clot-busting medication to help dissolve the clot. The physicians must determine when the symptoms began, as IV t-PA must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms. The rural ER physician and the stroke neurologist together will make the decision to begin the “drip.” The ER staff will administer the clot-busting medication (t-PA) and prepare for transfer by helicopter or ground ambulance to the INI stroke center for additional treatment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the signs and symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately. iBi