Observed on Oct 29, World Stroke Day helps educate the public about warning signs and raises awareness for this preventable, treatable and beatable disease.
Time is critical in any medical emergency, and that is especially true during a stroke, when time lost is brain lost. Thankfully, the door is now open to improving both the quality and the speed of stroke care in Illinois. On Oct 22, the Illinois Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules formally approved the Administrative Rule for the 2009 Illinois Primary Stroke Center Law. This Administrative Rule will guide the implementation of the landmark stroke law, and its approval by the legislature means the law’s improvements to life-saving stroke care will now be put into full effect throughout the state.
The 2009 Primary Stroke Center Law was designed to improve stroke care in two complementary ways: first, it would help hospitals to improve the quality of their in-patient stroke care systems; and second, it would ensure that regional emergency medical services (EMS) medical directors draft and implement stroke care protocols to better identify stroke patients in the field and take them directly to the nearest designated stroke center for treatment, bypassing a less-specialized hospital if necessary. Studies demonstrate that stroke systems like these help improve patient outcomes and increase provider efficiency.
While many hospitals throughout the state began improving their in-house stroke care immediately after the law was signed, the second goal of creating a system of regional EMS stroke care protocols to ensure patients are taken to the best hospital right away, has been largely on hold awaiting the finalization of this Administrative Rule. Now that it is approved, each of Illinois’ 11 EMS regions will be required by law to draft and implement a stroke care protocol, which meets criteria set out in the Rule, completing the implementation of the Primary Stroke Center Law and improving stroke care throughout the state.
"Successful treatment of stroke is dependent on a system of care that begins with bystanders identifying stroke symptoms, continues with the quick arrival and expert work of EMS personnel, and concludes with the specialized stroke treatment that patients can only receive at designated stroke center hospitals," said Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, Neurologist at the Feinberg School of Medicine and Chair of the Chicago Regional Stroke Advisory Subcommittee. "The finalization of this Administrative Rule and the full implementation of the Primary Stroke Center Law will help us create a faster, more coordinated system of stroke care resulting in increased survival and reduced disability for Illinois stroke patients."
In the U.S., 795,000 people have a stroke each year, one every 40 seconds. Someone dies from stroke every four minutes in our country making it the No. 4 leading cause of death. In recognition of World Stroke Day on Oct. 29, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association urges everyone to learn the stroke warning signs, since bystanders often need to act fast in an emergency.
“The patient doesn’t always recognize their own stroke and when they do, sometimes their symptoms make calling for help difficult, if not impossible,” said Dr. Prabhakaran. “Just like we need to learn CPR to save someone else’s life, we need to learn how to spot a stroke and act fast for the best chance of a positive outcome.”
The American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, nationally sponsored by Covidien, a global healthcare product company, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember stroke warning signs:
F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A - Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T - Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
“Those with loved ones who have stroke risk factors should make it a priority to learn F.A.S.T. and teach others,” said Dr. Prabhakaran. “Recognizing a stroke and calling 9-1-1 gives the patient a greater chance of getting to an appropriate hospital quickly and being assessed for life-saving treatment like a clot-busting drug or medical device.”
The association offers a free mobile app to help people spot a stroke and identify award-winning hospitals nearby. For more information about the stroke warning signs and mobile app, risk factors or Together to End Stroke, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org.