Ochsner Provides Tips on Stroke Prevention and Treatment

NEW ORLEANS – According to the American Stroke Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. That translates into nearly 800,000 people each year and every four minutes, a stroke is deadly.

Getting that message out has been a primary focus in May, as it is National Stroke Awareness Month. Continued education on warning signs of symptoms is vital to prevention of one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Gabriel Vidal, MD, Vascular Neurologist at the Ochsner Comprehensive Stroke Center, says the simplest way to help prevent a stroke is to take care of yourself and maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising daily. “Patients need to control the diseases that make them more likely to have a stroke, like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol,” explains Dr. Vidal. “It is also extremely important to also avoid smoking, drinking in excess and using illicit drugs.”

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain "clogs up,” depriving brain tissue of blood and nutrients it needs. The result is thousands of brain cells begin to die almost immediately, affecting motor skills, coordination, speech and comprehension. It is extremely important that someone showing signs of stroke remembers the acronym F.A.S.T. to lower the risk of death or disability:

  • F is for face – is your face drooping?
  • A is for arms – can you lift both arms?
  • S is for speech – are you slurring your words?
  • T is for time, call 9-1-1 immediately because with a stroke, time is brain.

Symptoms include: sudden onset weakness and/or numbness in one side of the body, difficulty speaking or comprehending others, slurred speech, facial droop, difficulty with vision, imbalance or severe headache.

For those individuals suffering from a stroke, Ochsner Health System has a unique Telestroke Program, which joins experts from participating facilities to consult immediately with Ochsner vascular neurologists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, using telemedicine equipment to determine the best treatment options for stroke patients. The Ochsner Telestroke Program includes more than 55 participating hospitals throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Since the Telestroke service began in 2009, more than 14,500 consults have been completed across all three states via this technology. Treatment for stroke symptoms is often a race against the clock. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that stroke patients who received tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) within three hours of the beginning of stroke symptoms were more likely to recover from their stroke with little or no disability. Because of this partnership, Ochsner’s Telestroke neurologists can see patients as they arrive at the partner hospitals and they are able to evaluate and prescribe t-PA treatment more quickly. This timeliness has resulted in a Telestroke t-PA utilization rate more than four times the national average and a reduced complication rate.

"In addition to tPA, this program has allowed us to immediately identify candidates who can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure called clot thrombectomy, allowing a trained specialist to remove the clot directly. New evidence indicates that treating individuals within 24 hours from the onset of their symptoms still have an increased opportunity for improvement. This procedure has been shown to make a marked recovery in the most severely disabling types of stroke. With the Telestroke process, quick identification and taking steps down this pathway very early are critical for the good outcomes this procedure can provide,” says Dr. Vidal.

Ochsner is the only program within Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas listed in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals ranking across four specialty categories, where it is number 38 in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery.

To learn more about your stroke risk, take our stroke risk assessment today. 

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Ochsner Health System is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 40 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals, and more than 100 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 70 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs nearly 25,000 employees and over 4,500 employed and affiliated physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties and conducts more than 700 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health System is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit ochsner.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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