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FAST Action for Stroke

When stroke occurs, every minute counts. The longer a person experiencing stroke goes without intervention, the more likely he or she is to sustain permanent brain injury.

"A stroke is essentially a brain attack," explains neurologist Natalia Kayloe, MD. Like a heart attack, it can have different vascular causes. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by an arterial blockage. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding inside the brain due to blood vessel rupture. In either event, the brain is deprived of oxygen, and serious, permanent effects can occur.

Action for Stroke


Signs of stroke can vary, with consequences ranging from mild to debilitating, depending on which part of the brain is affected and how quickly treatment is received. The following symptoms may appear alone or in combination:

  • Weakness (a decrease in strength) in the face, arm and/or leg, usually on one side of the body. It may be partial or complete—meaning it could occur, for example, in the upper or lower portion of one arm, or in the entire arm.
  • Numbness (a decrease in sensation) in the face, arm and/or leg on one side of the body
  • Inability to understand spoken language
  • Inability to speak or write
  • Vertigo, loss of balance or difficulty walking
  • Loss of vision in one eye, double vision or blurry vision
  • Sudden severe headache

When blood vessels feeding the brain are partially blocked by clots or arterial plaque, a person may experience a transischemic attack (TIA). Symptoms of TIA are similar to those seen in full stroke, but tend to last only a few minutes or hours, and usually go away within 24 hours.

However, signs of TIA should never be ignored. Five percent of individuals experiencing TIA symptoms end up having a major stroke within a week, and as many as 20 percent go on to have a major stroke within three months. One in four full-blown strokes is preceded by TIA.

Evidence of stroke should always be treated as a lifethreatening emergency. For many patients, the administration of a tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), a potent blood thinner, may restore blood flow to the affected areas of the brain, preventing further brain damage.

In March, Virginia Hospital Center earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers in recognition of its outstanding stroke care program. The distinction was received after an on-site review confirmed that the Hospital follows rigorous national standards and treatment guidelines established by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association.

"We were extremely proud to achieve this recognition, as we know that timely diagnosis, access to clot-busting drugs, and special neurointerventional procedures can make a critical difference," says Dr. Kayloe. "Time-sensitive care ensures that patients have the best chance at a full recovery."

Stroke is the nation's third leading cause of death, as well as a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. If you witness a sudden onset of symptoms in a friend or loved one, note the exact time that the symptoms started, and then call 911 or go directly to the emergency department. Every minute counts.

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