Stroke care is time sensitive

By Kelsey Guthmiller, Trauma & Stroke Program Manager, Riverwood Healthcare Center

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and one of the leading causes of disability in Minnesota. In fact, globally about one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime.

Yet, most adults in the U.S. don’t know the warning signs of a stroke, which is largely preventable and treatable.

Use the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T. for recognizing a stroke:

B – Balance: Watch for sudden loss of balance

E – Eyes: Check for vision loss

F – Face: Look for an uneven smile

A – Arm: Check if one arm is weak

S – Speech: Listen for slurred speech

T – Time: Call 9-1-1 right away

With a stroke, calling 9-1-1 can save a life. Care often starts in the ambulance and emergency medical techs are the first health care provider in contact with an assumed stroke patient. These professionals are a critical part of the stroke team and a vital link in a patient’s survival and long-term functioning.

“A stroke is a medical emergency so it’s important to note when symptoms started and get medical care right away,” said Dr. David Taylor, emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer at Riverwood. “The classic symptoms are drooping face, trouble speaking and one side of the body, an arm or a leg, not working as it should.”

“Medical care for a stroke patient is very time sensitive. If the patient gets care within three to four hours, we can administer certain kinds of medications that can reverse a stroke. We also use telestroke, communicating with a stroke neurologist who is off site, typically in St. Cloud, to view the patient and advise on treatment. We then transfer the patient to a stroke center in a larger urban area.”

In telestroke medicine health care providers who have advanced training in treating strokes can use technology, including digital cameras, internet telecommunications, smartphones, tablets and other technology, to treat people who have had strokes in another location. These stroke experts work with local emergency health care providers to recommend a diagnosis and treatment.

Riverwood Healthcare Center is designated as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital, meeting high standards of care for the initial treatment of stroke patients when quick action and proper medication can save lives and limit the long-term disabling effects of a stroke. As of June 2022, the Minnesota Department of Health had designated 116 stroke hospitals. More than 90 percent of Minnesotans now live within a 30-minute drive of a designated Stroke System hospital.