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How Quickly does Stroke Treatment Need to Happen?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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As the American Heart Association says in a series of public service announcements about strokes, “time lost is brain lost.” The sooner treatment is provided to a stroke victim, the better the prognosis will be. As a general rule, there is a three hour window to intervene in the case of a stroke victim, although treatments can continue to be offered after this period. If someone displays stroke symptoms, emergency services should be called immediately; it's far better to receive treatment and discover that the problem is not a stroke than it is to take a wait and see approach while a stroke is occurring.

Stroke treatment varies, depending on the type of stroke involved. In the case of ischemic stroke, caused by a clot of blood in the brain, the goal is to dissolve the clot or remove it. This is usually accomplished with the use of medications, and many stroke medications are most effective within the first three hours. Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain, usually require surgery to relieve pressure on the brain and address the cause of the bleeding.

Rapid stroke treatment is necessary because a stroke interrupts the blood supply to the brain. The longer the blood supply is interrupted, the more likely it is that cell death will occur, causing permanent brain damage. Ideally, a patient should arrive at the hospital within an hour of a stroke, giving the doctors time to determine the cause of the stroke with medical imaging studies so that they can provide treatment during the three hour window. Treatments are also available for people undergoing a stroke, unlike in the past, when doctors had to wait for the stroke to end to provide treatment.

If someone experiences difficulty speaking, difficulty walking, or confusion, it can be an indicator that he or she is having a stroke. Strokes can happen at any age, and people should not assume that because someone is young and healthy, a stroke cannot be happening. If these symptoms appear, emergency medical care should be provided so that the patient can receive stroke treatment in time. People with a history of stroke are also more likely to experience strokes again, and stroke treatment is especially critical for them to prevent further brain damage.

When calling emergency services or bringing a patient into the hospital for stroke treatment, someone should clearly state that they think a stroke is occurring. This will alert medical personnel to the fact that there is a neurological emergency, so that they can start taking immediate action. They will probably ask for additional information about the symptoms observed and when they first appeared, and information about the patient's medical history will be requested as well. If possible, a list of medications being taken by the patient should be provided so that this data can be used in the evaluation of the patient's condition.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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