Brain Attack: Minutes Matter!

Damage from stroke can be minimized with advanced therapies, but timing is key.

"Delivering intravenous clot-busting drugs within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms can greatly diminish residual damage," says Dr. Juliette Coleman, Stroke Director at Venice Regional Medical Center, the area's only hospital designated as a Joint Commission - certified Primary Stroke Center.

"Our interventional radiology team can deliver therapy intra-arterially -- that is, with a catheter fed directly to the brain via an artery -- up to six hours after symptoms begin, as well as extract the clots.  The key to success," she emphasizes, "is time."

Though symptoms sometimes resolve quickly, Dr. Coleman stresses that patients who recover spontaneously should still be examined at the hospital: "Our bodies work to correct problems like blood clots, but if clots are lodging in the brain, we need to know why so we can prevent a more serious stroke."

Venice Regional Medical Center also has a multidisciplinary team to aid in stroke recovery.

Life-Saving Knowledge

The clock starts ticking from the last time you had no symptoms, not when symptoms are first observed.

Call 911: Emergency vehicles have priority in traffic and will begin treatment while you're being transported.

Bring a companion who can provide ER staff with reliable information about your symptoms and other medical concerns.

Watch for these sudden symptoms:

· Weakness of face, arm, or leg on one side

· Confusion, trouble communicating

· Impaired vision

· Difficulty walking, loss of balance

· Severe headache with no known cause

Not all strokes are the same.  Ischemic strokes are caused by clots that block the flow of blood and respond to clot-busting drugs.  Hemorrhagic strokes result from a burst blood vessel and may require surgery.

Specific post-stroke problems depend on which part of the brain was deprived of blood and for how long.

Venice Regional Medical Center's Acute Stroke Team is available 24/7.