HealthONE - June 01, 2018

Currently, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America. Every year, nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association (ASA), an ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases. An ischemic stroke occurs when there is an obstruction within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. In January 2018, the ASA and the American Heart Association (AHA) unveiled new treatment guidelines for ischemic strokes that allow for more patients to be eligible for certain life-saving treatments.

These updated treatment guidelines expand the treatment window for a clot-removal procedure called a mechanical thrombectomy. This procedure is effective for the most severe strokes, which are caused by large vessel blockages known as occlusions. The new guidelines extend the treatment window from six hours to 24 hours after the stroke begins.

“[The new guidelines] allow emergency medical services (EMS) to treat almost every patient who has stroke symptoms as a candidate for intervention treatment,” says Dr. Ian Kaminsky, a neurointerventional surgeon at Swedish Medical Center.

While the new guidelines for ischemic stroke have expanded the time frame and intervention treatment options, this doesn’t mean you should wait to seek medical attention if you or someone you know is having a stroke. At the first sign of a stroke, it’s very important to call 9-1-1. In many cases, a person who is experiencing a stroke is too confused or disoriented to call 9-1-1. A helpful way to spot a stroke is to learn the acronym F.A.S.T:

F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech difficulty
T: Time to call 9-1-1

The sooner someone who suffered a stroke arrives at a hospital — ideally a comprehensive stroke center — the more likely they are to receive these clot-removal treatments.

“At a comprehensive stroke center like Swedish, we strive to have the blocked vessel open in less than 60 minutes from arrival,” says Dr. Kaminsky.  “Our fastest recorded case is five minutes from groin puncture to opening the vessel.”

Knowing what to do if a loved one or a stranger is experiencing a stroke can be life-saving. Instead of driving the person suffering a stroke to the hospital, call 9-1-1 and wait for the ambulance and EMS team to arrive.

Getting the patient to the right facility the first time “will lead to the best possible outcomes,” Dr. Kaminsky said.

“If they suspect a large vessel occlusion, EMS needs to evaluate the patient and get them to a comprehensive center like Swedish,” Dr. Kaminsky said.

Proper medical intervention during a stroke can save lives. Talk to your physician about stroke symptoms and stroke prevention.

Swedish Medical Center ranks among the nation's top neuroscience programs, and was designated as a Neuroscience Center of Excellence (COE).* A leader in the field of neurology and neurosciences and the treatment of stroke, Swedish combines state-of-the-art technology with an outstanding team of staff and physicians who have extensive experience and expertise in treating nearly all forms of neurological disease. Our proven excellence in neurosciences has made Swedish the Rocky Mountain region's referral center for neurotrauma — and the first hospital in Colorado to be four-times certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.