Medically Reviewed by Timothy L. Hagen, DO
The signs of a person having a stroke – basically a heart attack in the brain – are easy to spot IF you know what to look for. McLeod Neurologist Timothy Hagen, DO, lists the signs for you to spot.
Here is a summary of Dr. Hagen’s comments:
We try to differentiate between a large vessel stroke that’s in arteries close to the surface and a small vessel stroke that is deep in the brain. Large vessel strokes may be a candidate for pulling the clot out with a thrombectomy procedure. Small vessel strokes are not candidates for a thrombectomy. Instead we use tPA, the so-called clot buster drug.
For the signs of the stroke, we use the acronym FAST. That’s Face, Arm, Speech and Time.
It’s important to know the warning signs of a stroke, because if you get to the hospital within the 4.5 hours, you may be a candidate for the clot buster or the thrombectomy. If you ignore stroke symptoms and fail to get to the hospital within the time window, your treatment options are more limited. Sometimes the signs are subtle and difficult to pick up.
But if you think FAST — face, arm, speech and time — get to the hospital within 4.5 hours for tPA or within 6 hours for thrombectomy, we have a much better chance to medically intervene to reduce the injury and disability from that stroke.
It’s important for you to know the last time a patient was acting and feeling well. Studies are now underway to determine if we can offer treatment even if you went to bed fine last night and woke up the next day with stroke symptoms.
Yet, what we do know: it’s critical to pinpoint the last time the patient was well, because that is when the stroke clock starts. That point in time determines if you are you a candidate for the clot buster drug, thrombectomy or both. If you don’t know when it started, treatment may not help in any meaningful way.
So looking at FAST: the Face droops on one side. An Arm may be dangling and leg is weak. Speech is slurred or unintelligible. And Time to get treatment is critical.
Probably the thing that patients are most concerned about is the damage that’s left behind. The disability they may have to live with for the rest of their life. So if you think FAST: face, arm, speech, time, get to the hospital soon enough to have intervention. Spot the symptoms FAST. Get to the Emergency Department FAST. Be evaluated FAST, get treatment and reduce the risk of disability.