Signs of stroke? Why you need to get to the ER fast | MedStar Health
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A senior man holds his hand to his head while standing in his livingroom at home.

When it comes to seeking care in the emergency room (ER), it’s often best to get there sooner rather than later. For many illnesses and injuries, there are more options—and better outcomes—the earlier you receive treatment.

This is especially true if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or signs of a stroke—all of which are medical emergencies. If you or a loved one shows signs of stroke, you should call 911 immediately.

Every second counts when you’re having a stroke.

A stroke, or “brain attack”, occurs when a clot or burst blood vessel blocks blood flow to the brain. When brain tissue doesn’t receive proper blood flow, millions of brain cells begin to die quickly. These brain cells are responsible for movement, speech, and thinking, which means every minute that passes increases your risk of permanent damage to your brain, or even death. That’s why many healthcare providers say “time is brain”.

If you or someone you love are experiencing stroke symptoms, don’t brush them off or wait for them to pass. Call 911 right away, as it could save your life.

You only have a few hours to receive life-saving stroke treatment.

The more time that passes without treatment, the more brain cells that will die, which means a greater risk of long-term disabilities. By acting quickly and calling 911 at the earliest signs of stroke, you can get to the hospital in time to receive treatment that clears the blockage and restores blood flow to your brain. This treatment can only be administered within 3-4.5 hours from the moment your first symptom appears. And, treatment is safer and more effective the earlier it’s used.

Don’t try to drive yourself to the ER. Call 911 as soon as possible.

You can’t afford to waste any time—or brain cells—when you suspect a stroke. But, don’t try to drive your car or let someone else drive you, as your symptoms could worsen on the way. The fastest way to seek treatment is to call 911. Emergency medical responders move quickly and communicate with the emergency room staff so they’re prepared to administer treatment as soon as you arrive at the ER. This can save precious brain cells that could mean the difference between your ability to talk and walk independently or live with permanent disabilities.

Even if you think the symptoms are minor or could suggest a mini-stroke, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), don’t hesitate to call 911. A TIA could be an early sign that a larger stroke looms ahead.

Don’t let the fear of overreacting prevent you from acting. It’s better to go to the hospital quickly and have the ER providers rule out a stroke than wait it out at home and risk your life. If you get to the ER and it’s not a stroke—celebrate! We’ll be glad you acted quickly and came to the ER to protect your life.

When you suspect a #Stroke, call 911 immediately. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, two ER and stroke experts share why you can’t afford to waste any time:

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B.E. F.A.S.T.: How to identify early signs of a stroke.

The acronym B.E. F.A.S.T. can help you notice early signs of a stroke, whether you’re experiencing them firsthand or witnessing them happening to someone around you.

If you or someone else shows even one sign of the following stroke symptoms, call 911.

  • Balance: Do you feel a loss of balance or coordination? Are you having trouble staying upright or steady while walking?
  • Eyes: Are you having sudden vision problems or trouble seeing in one or both eyes? Do things look blurry or doubled in either eye?
  • Face: Do you feel numb on one side of your face? Or, is one side of your face drooping?
  • Arm: Does one arm feel numb or weak?
  • Speech: Are you slurring your speech, struggling to find commonly used words, or having other difficulties talking?
  • Time to call 911: If any of these stroke symptoms arise, don’t delay to see if it will go away. Call 911 immediately.

Other signs of stroke may include sudden symptoms of:

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Severe headache

What to expect when you get to the ER.

When you get to the ER via ambulance, a trained medical team will be waiting to diagnose and treat you immediately. At MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, our ER staff will work together to quickly determine whether or not you had or are having a stroke using blood work and diagnostic tests, such as a CAT scan or EKG.

Once you’ve been diagnosed, we’ll act fast to remove the blockage and re-establish blood flow to the brain. We’ll also investigate what caused the stroke in the first place so we can help establish a plan to prevent it from happening again.

Symptoms and severity of effects after a stroke vary from person to person. Some people make a full recovery, while others experience devastating losses in function, speech, or cognition. If you need rehabilitation services, we’ll help you get the care you need from a team of neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists who can help you regain independence.

Get the fast care you need in a safe environment.

Patient safety has always been our number one priority at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, and we are taking extra precautions to ensure our ER facility is safe, clean, and secure.

If you spot early signs of stroke, don’t wait another minute. Call 911 immediately. It just might save your life.

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