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Timeline of a stroke

Strokes occur suddenly and every second counts when it comes to surviving one. This timeline – from initial stages of attack to treatment – will help you deal with it.

Early signs of stroke

Strokes occur when the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is interrupted, as a result of either a clot (an ischaemic stroke) or a burst blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke). Almost two million brain cells are lost every minute of an attack. Thus the acronym F.A.S.T. (which stands for: facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time to call emergency services) has been devised to assist in identifying and responding to stroke symptoms.

‘Everyone in the household should know the signs of a stroke – including children – because an affected person may be unable to phone or call for help,’ advises Dr Karisha Quarrie, Regional Clinical Manager at Life Healthcare. If a stroke is suspected, call for an ambulance immediately, telling the operator that an attack may be occurring.

After ambulance arrival

Emergency services will act immediately, asking when symptoms started and checking breathing, pulse and other vital signs to determine the required intervention. They will also look for signs of a stroke and may ask the patient to do the following:

  • Smile to see if the face is crooked or drooping
  • Hold both arms out straight to determine if one arm moves downwards or is immobile
  • Say a simple phrase to check if speech is slurred or the patient has trouble understanding the request

Blood sugar levels may also be tested and, if a stroke is suspected, emergency services will inform hospital staff. The patient will then be transported to the closest hospital for emergency care.

What happens at the hospital

Upon patient arrival, a doctor will perform a physical examination and enquire about first signs of stroke and health history. Patient awareness, sight, speech and movement examinations will then be performed to determine the severity of the attack. Blood tests may also be done.

A CT scan is an important part of the immediate treatment for stroke, creating a brain image to determine stroke type. If an ischaemic stroke is diagnosed, a clot-busting drug will be administered to promote blood flow back into the brain. However, haemorrhagic stroke sufferers may need surgery to repair the broken blood vessel.

After this acute, initial phase of treatment, physical rehabilitation and future stroke prevention become priorities in a process that can range from months to years.

The faster treatment for a stroke is implemented, the less damage there will be to the brain and the lower the chances of long-term disability. So, familiarise yourself with stroke symptoms and treatment steps today, to help ensure a potentially life-saving response if an attack strikes in future.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.