Brain Attack

stroke imagery

When a stroke occurs, part or all of the brain is deprived of oxygen and brain cells begin to die within minutes. Because “time is brain,” individuals experiencing stroke symptoms need immediate medical attention.

Stroke or a brain attack is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States. Each year, more than 400 Meritus Medical Center patients are diagnosed with ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke or transient ischemic attack, also known as TIA or mini-stroke.

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot or plaque blocks a vessel and interrupts blood flow to the brain whereas a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a vessel bursts within the brain. In either case, brain cells begin to die because they lack oxygen and nutrients. Because “time lost is brain lost,” individuals experiencing stroke symptoms need immediate medical attention. A clot-busting drug known as tPA may be used for ischemic stroke, but it must be given within three hours from the start of stroke symptoms.

Meritus Medical Center is certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. The designation means that the hospital meets quality stroke care criteria and that EMS providers bring potential stroke patients who are within a 30-minute drive to Meritus Medical Center rather than taking them to a closer, non-certified health care provider.

Working alongside Meritus Medical Center’s emergency medicine physicians, vascular neurologists from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center help diagnose and manage stroke patients using live video conferencing. Through this telehealth partnership, a vascular neurologist is available 24/7 to evaluate stroke patients.

Sudden: the sign of stroke

Stroke is a preventable, treatable and beatable condition, but a lack of knowledge or misinterpretation of stroke signs can mean a delay in getting to the hospital and a greater chance of serious brain damage.

“Sudden” is the telltale sign of stroke. Possible signs of stroke include: trouble walking, lack of balance or coordination, blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, slurred speech or confusion. Other signs of stroke include: weakness or numbness on one side of the body, facial droop, an unexplained sudden and severe headache or dizziness often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

If you think someone is having a stroke, you need to act F.A.S.T.

Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?

Time. If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 911. Make note of when the first symptoms appeared and tell EMS personnel once they arrive.

Lower your risk

If you have the following conditions, talk to your health care provider about how to effectively manage your risk for stroke:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking/nicotine use
  • Alcohol abuse or illicit drug use
  • Heart disease
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • Oral contraceptive use combined with smoking
Remember, even if symptoms seem to go away, doctors warn that you should call 911 and go to the hospital immediately.