Recognizing Stroke is Key to Survival and Recovery

Published April 1, 2013

By Michael Reding, M.D.
Director, Stroke Rehabilitation Program

In the United States, 2.6 percent of people 18 years or older experience a stroke, and in Westchester County, approximately 15 people per 1,000, or 1.5 percent, are hospitalized due to stroke. It is the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 133,000 people annually, and is also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

A stroke occurs when vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain is cut off. It is a medical emergency and one of the ways to learn how to recognize a stroke is to remember to act F.A.S.T.

F – Face: Ask the person to smile and check if the face droops.
A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Check if one drifts downwards.
S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and see if speech is slurred or strange.
T – Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Other stroke symptoms to be aware of also 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.

The National Stroke Association also advises to note the time these symptoms are first seen as this information is vital to healthcare providers and can affect treatment decisions. There also is an FDA-approved clot-busting medication that may help reduce long-term disability post ischemic strokes if given within three hours of the first symptom.

Post Stroke Recovery

After stabilizing in an acute care hospital, post-stroke patients and their caretakers should advocate to be transferred to an acute rehabilitation hospital where they will receive the therapy and medical management needed to ensure maximum recovery.

Unlike at a sub-acute facility, post-stroke patients in acute rehabilitation hospitals will receive a minimum of three hours of therapy per day, including physical, occupational and speech therapy, up to six days a week.  Therapy is provided on both a one-to-one and group basis, depending on the needs of the individual patient. Patients are medically managed by specially-trained physicians 24-hours a day. Sub-acute care is less intensive than acute rehabilitation and patient generally only receive between one and two hours of therapy per day. This may not be enough therapy to allow for maximum recovery.

For more information about stroke and stroke rehabilitation, attend Burke’s upcoming annual Stroke Awareness Day on May 22. For more information about the event contact Lisa Edelstein, OT; Program Director of Burke’s inpatient stroke program at (914) 597-2256. Additionally, Burke is involved in several post stroke research studies. Interested patients should visit our Clinical Research page.

To read other blog post by Dr. Reding and the rest of Burke's doctors, visit Burke's Rehab Insights blog.

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