Stroke Symptoms? Think FAST, Experts Say

Stroke ( Cerebrovascular accident ) . film x-ray skull of human with red area ( Medical , Science and Healthcare concept and background )

Seton experts urge Central Texans to learn how to recognize stroke symptoms

If you’re with someone who may be having a stroke right now, do you know what symptoms to look for?

Here’s a hint: you have to think FAST.

“Nearly 2 million brain cells die each minute a stroke goes untreated – that’s mainly why stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.,” Dr. Steven Warach, medical director of the Seton Dell Medical School Stroke Institute, said. “It’s critical to recognize what’s happening, respond immediately and seek expert medical attention.”

Seton Healthcare Family, a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health care system, has expanded clinical stroke services locally at Seton Medical Center Austin and University Medical Center Brackenridge, certified comprehensive stroke centers encompassing the full spectrum of care: diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education.

Seton also is working with The University of Texas at Austin’s new Dell Medical School to provide specialized stroke in-patient units at the new Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, which opens in 2017.

Physicians with the Seton Brain and Spine Institute already perform innovative stroke treatments involving stent retrieval devices. A clinical trial starting soon at the Stroke Institute will study whether a specific catheter-based clot removal therapy will also help patients who are brought to the hospital too late to receive the current therapies.

Seton Medical Center Austin and University Medical Center Brackenridge are the only local medical facilities with around-the-clock availability of a dedicated team of stroke specialists. Seton Dell Medical School Stroke Institute is participating in national studies to improve stroke prevention and treatment outcomes, including several funded by the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke. Local clinical trials now under way are seeking participants.

“Seton is where stroke patients are treated by highly specialized physicians familiar with and skilled in the latest treatments, with access to the most sophisticated technology available,” Warach said. “Humancare means the best care possible for stroke patients in our community.”

But first, when someone is having a stroke, think FAST — an acronym about stroke warning signs and symptoms. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association advise the following:

stroke FAST - ASA Attribution

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile and see if the smile is uneven.
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is the person’s speech slurred? Is she or he unable to speak or hard to understand? Can the person correctly repeat a simple sentence, such as “The sky is blue”?
  • Time to Call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms – even if the symptoms go away – call 911 and get that person to a hospital now.

“It’s important to check and remember the time when that person first exhibited any stroke symptoms,” Warach said. “It can dictate the best treatment upon arrival at a hospital and lead to a more complete recovery.”