When a Stroke occurs: MarinHealth Medical Center’s Emergency Response

Author: Monica Lynch

You are having coffee at a friend’s house, chatting away, when suddenly, you notice she drops her cup of coffee, she slumps to the right and is drooling. When you ask if she’s OK, she can’t respond. She looks frightened, confused and doesn’t seem to understand what you’re saying. When she tries to talk her speech is garbled and incoherent. Could she be having a stroke?

Stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. Symptoms happen suddenly and are similar for ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. One of the easiest ways to remember stroke symptoms and determine if someone is having a stroke is to remember the phrase B.E.F.A.S.T.

You recognize that she could be suffering a stroke and dial 911. In a matter of minutes, the ambulance arrives. Now what?

911 Response

First responders are trained to act quickly when symptoms suggest a possible stroke. First, they assess your friend by checking her blood pressure, oxygenation, respirations, heart rate and temperature. They ask you when your friend was “last seen normal” before the symptoms began. Paramedics perform a quick neurological exam called a stroke screen and check her blood sugar to make sure her symptoms are not due to a hypoglycemia. Then, they alert the Emergency Department so that the stroke team can prepare for your friend’s arrival.

At MarinHealth’s Primary Stroke Center

The Stroke Team meets your friend at the door of the Emergency Department and evaluation begins immediately upon arrival. The Stroke Team will ask a series of questions that will help guide treatment. Immediate treatment can minimize the long-term effects of stroke and help prevent further complications.

After the intake questions have been answered your friend is taken directly to our radiology suite for brain imaging to diagnose stroke. As a Primary Stroke Center, certified by the Joint Commission, MarinHealth uses evidence-based stroke protocols and treatment plans to provide high quality, effective stroke treatment beginning in the Emergency Department.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type, accounting for 87% of strokes. This type of stroke occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked.

Treating Ischemic Stroke

The standard treatment for ischemic stroke is tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, a protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots. TPA is the only FDA-approved clot dissolving medication for the treatment of ischemic stroke. It must be given within 4 ½ hours of an ischemic strokes onset.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes account for 13% of strokes. These strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain due to a ruptured blood vessel.

Whether a stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic, brain cells begin to die. Every minute that the brain is left untreated 2 million brain cells die. Time is brain!

Treating Hemorrhagic Stroke

Emergency treatment of hemorrhagic stroke focuses on controlling the bleeding and reduce pressure in the brain by lowering blood pressure, intracranial pressure, prevent seizures and blood vessels spasms.

Surgical and Minimally Invasive Procedures to Treat Stroke

A select group of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke patients may be eligible for advanced neuro-surgical interventions such as mechanical thrombectomy, the minimally invasive removal of a clot using interventional radiology. Thrombectomy procedures are also time sensitive and are usually only possible in the first 24 hours after symptoms begin. MarinHealth Medical Center has the capability to transfer these patients to UCSF Health when the need arises.

Your friend was able to receive lifesaving treatment because you recognized the signs and symptoms of a stroke and activated 911. She was taken to MarinHealth Medical Center, a Designated Primary Stroke Center, and received timely and effective stroke treatment. She is now well on her way to recovery.

Stroke Prevention

Anyone can have a stroke, but certain factors place you at higher risk. Lifestyle changes to reduce risk of stroke include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Control diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Limit alcohol use
  • See your physician and take medications as prescribed

If you or someone you love is recovering from a stroke, we invite you to attend MarinHealth’s monthly Virtual Stroke Support Group, which provides comfort and assistance for community members who have experienced stroke, as well as their caregivers and loved ones. The group offers a welcoming environment for participants to find common ground, exchange tips, and encourage each other.