Prompt emergency care for a stroke can help prevent brain damage and improve survival rates. While there is little a non-medical professional can do for a stroke victim, doctors have a wide range of diagnostic tools and treatment options that can be used as emergency care for a stroke patient. Some of the possible steps in emergency care for a stroke victim include imaging scans, administration of drugs, and surgery.
The most common symptoms of stroke include numbness or paralysis on one side of the body, mental confusion, difficulty speaking, and vision changes. If a person begins to experience these symptoms, immediate medical attention is required. A person experiencing stroke symptoms should not drive, but should call for an ambulance or ask a friend to drive him or her to the hospital at once. Some medical studies show that emergency care for stroke victims is most effective within the first six hours following symptom appearance, making immediate medical care a high priority.
Once at an emergency care facility, doctors and nurses will assess the condition of the patient through a variety of tests. Imaging scans, such as computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, are often used to help quickly identify the location of clots that may be causing the stroke. The choice of diagnostic tests may depend on the symptoms present, the condition of the patient, and how long it has been since the patient began experiencing stroke symptoms. Since fast decisions are often required in emergency care for a stroke, doctors will often use tests that bring the fastest definitive results.
Emergency care for a stroke will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the outcome of diagnostic tests. Anti-coagulant drugs, which reduce blood clots, are often used to reduce or destroy the blood clots causing the stroke. In cases where there is concern or evidence that the clots are bleeding, however, anti-coagulants may be contraindicated. For this reason, some doctors tell patients to avoid the self-care remedy of taking aspirin if stroke symptoms occur, as this can actually cause more harm in some cases.
If drug therapy is contraindicated or insufficient, doctors may perform emergency surgery to remove the blood clots responsible for the stroke. This may include the insertion of a small catheter into the brain to remove the clot. A catheter may also be used to dose the brain with clot-dissolving drugs directly, rather than waiting for the medicine to reach the brain by slower means. For hemorrhagic stroke, which causes internal bleeding, doctors may perform emergency surgery to repair arteries and stop the bleeding.