May is American Stroke Month, which is the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s annual campaign to increase awareness that strokes are largely preventable, treatable and beatable.
While stroke is now the number 5 cause of death and the 9th leading cause of disability in the U.S., many Americans do not think of a stroke as a major health concern.
Harrington Healthcare is one of 69 hospitals in Massachusetts that is designated as a Primary Stroke Service (PSS) hospital. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) began designating hospitals meeting the requirements for PSS in 2004 in order to improve stroke care in Massachusetts. PSS designation requires that hospitals follow very specific stroke protocols for patient assessment and care, and commit to continuous education of the public regarding the signs and symptoms of stroke.
Every year more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke with 5 to 14 percent of those having an additional stroke within a year. About 600,000 of these are first strokes and 185,000 are recurrent strokes.
Many strokes can be prevented by working with your doctor to manage risk factors. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and additionally, other controllable risk factors that can increase your risk for stroke include, high cholesterol, transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini strokes, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and heart disease such as atrial fibrillation (A-Fib). You can work with your health care provider for tips to manage any of your current health conditions to reduce your risk for stroke.
As part of Harrington’s PSS designation, we must provide emergency diagnostic and therapeutic services 24 hours a day, seven days a week to patients that arrive with symptoms of an acute stroke. These services are needed to ensure all patients who arrive within hours of the onset of their stroke symptoms, and if eligible can be treated with the clot-busting medication, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), that can greatly reduce the disability resulting from a stroke.
Harrington is affiliated with the UMass telestroke program in order to provide the aforementioned services. By establishing a telestroke link using videoconferencing and image sharing technology, stroke specialists from UMass/University Campus can examine patients remotely to help diagnose and recommend treatment for a patient.
When a patient from Harrington, Southbridge or Webster campus, is having stroke symptoms, or is being brought in by Emergency Medical Services (EMS), who call ahead to inform the Emergency Care Center (ECC) that they are bringing in a possible stroke, the “Stroke Team” is activated at the hospital. This ensures that all the resources will be available to evaluate, diagnose and treat the patient with the goal being to treat all eligible patients appropriately for their presenting signs and symptoms.
Harrington HealthCare will be promoting stroke awareness this May to increase the public’s knowledge of stroke and, in particular, the symptoms of strokes.
If someone you are with exhibits any of the following symptoms, “Act F.A.S.T.” to increase recognition of stroke and to respond to stroke victims.
F=Face: Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile;
A=Arms: Does one arm drift down? Ask them to raise both arms.
S=Speech: Does their speech sound strange? Ask them to repeat a phrase.
T=Time: Every second brain cells can die.
Call 911 at any sign of stroke symptoms.
Written by Jeanine Alton, stroke coordinator at Harrington and member of its Quality and Patient Safety Department.