(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The Health Ministry has launched a media campaign to inform the public about stroke, how to identify sudden symptoms and the need to get the victim to the hospital as soon as possible.
“Getting medical care within four hours of the first signs of stroke saves lives,” says the ministry on public service announcements appearing on TV and online.
A crooked mouth, weakness of the limbs (usually on one side) or confused speech or comprehension, a sudden disruption of balance or coordination, or inability to see in one or both eyes are the main symptoms that require immediate evacuation to an emergency room, preferably in a hospital with a stroke center.
Just one symptom is reason to call an ambulance and get urgent medical help, the ministry said.
Strokes are the third biggest cause of death in the Western world. There is a four-hour window of opportunity for neurosurgeons and neurologists to administer tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) to dissolve a blood clot causing an ischemic stroke, because a lack of oxygen kills off brain tissue.
“Wasted time is a lost brain,” is the message of the publicity campaign, said the ministry, which is cosponsoring the campaign in cooperation with the Ne’eman Association of Stroke Survivors.
Another treatment for stroke, effective if given during the first eight hours, is catheterization of the brain to mechanically remove the clot.
Often, the neurological problems are caused by a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced, but after a short time, the blood flow is restored and the symptoms subside. With a stroke, the blood flow stays blocked, and the brain suffers permanent damage.
There are 15,000 new stroke cases here every year. Only 40 percent of patients, or 5,200 people, reach the hospital in time. About 2,000 don’t get to the hospital at all because of lack of awareness, although they are suffering from a preventable, serious stroke, the ministry said.
About 85% of strokes are of the ischemic type (caused by a blood clot), while the rest are hemorrhagic (a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing it to leak and cause damage.) In addition to the unusual educational campaign, the ministry is investing in training personnel and medical infrastructure to treat strokes faster and better.