When it comes to a stroke, every second counts. Many of us may not be aware, but during a stroke, 1.9 million irreplaceable brain cells are lost each minute. And when brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. Therefore, how a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.
So what are some warning signs to look out for if someone is having a stroke?
The most common symptoms of a stroke are: trouble speaking, trouble seeing, weakness on one side of the body or difficulty walking. If you or a loved one ever experiences one or several of these symptoms suddenly, please call 911.
What are some things you can you do to prevent a stroke?
Studies show that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by working with a healthcare professional to reduce your risk. Below are just a few things you can do in order to prevent a stroke from creeping up on you:
- Control your blood pressure (high blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor if left untreated)
- Identify atrial fibrillation
- Stop smoking
- Control alcohol use
- Know your cholesterol levels
- Control diabetes
- Manage your exercise/diet
- Treat circulation problems
Your access to care is vital
Because time is of the essence during a stroke, hospitals having neurologists on call to diagnose and care for emergency stroke patients can be crucial to saving precious brain cells. However, most rural and many urban hospitals do not have neurologists on call, which can add even more panic to an already scary situation.
This is why programs such as Ochsner’s ASSERT telemedicine program, located at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, can be so valuable to patients who find themselves experiencing a stroke. Because of this service, since August 2009 thousands of patients around Louisiana have been able to receive specialized care from Ochsner neurologists in that integral timeframe between symptom onset and treatment.
So how does Ochsner’s telestroke program work?
Stroke neurologists are present virtually through secure wireless data and video communication 24/7. Ochsner’s stroke team evaluates patients, diagnoses, directs care and ensures that timely thrombolytic therapy is administered. Ochsner Medical Center was the first hospital in Louisiana to use telemedicine to treat strokes in patients in areas with smaller hospitals.
Additionally, through Ochsner’s “Stroke Central” and “Stroke Mobile” programs, care providers can monitor patients, evaluate outcomes and check on medication and treatment adherence on a real-time basis both in the hospital and in the home. Monitoring of patients continues on throughout the year via home visits by a nurse over a 12 month period resulting in improved quality of life, improved acute stroke management and reduced complications.
The Comprehensive Stroke Care Model is estimated to save almost $5 million over the next three years.