As many as half the people who experience a stroke may not recognize the signs and symptoms – putting them at risk of delaying treatment, according to a new study of 911 calls.
Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center found the number of stroke victims transported via ambulance to emergency rooms has not risen since 1997, highlighting the need for more education about stroke symptoms and the importance of getting quick medical attention.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on an analysis of 1,605 cases collected by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Researchers found that just 51 percent of adults diagnosed with stroke in emergency departments nationwide arrived via ambulance in 1997 – the same rate as in 2008.
Lead researcher Dr. Hooman Kamel, a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian, said the findings suggest many people who have stroke symptoms may not recognize them as such and fail to call 911 for an ambulance. Instead, they may wait to call their doctors for an appointment and lose critical time for treatment before brain damage occurs.
"We have drugs and surgeries that can minimize brain damage from a stroke, but they can be used only within a few short hours,” Kamen said. “When stroke victims or bystanders quickly recognize the symptoms of a stroke and call 911, patients are more likely to arrive in time to receive these treatments."
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, you should call 911 if you suddenly experience any of these common warning signs and symptoms of stroke:
• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
• Severe headache with no known cause