Medical innovations have led to better patient care and reduced mortality rates. Stroke care is a prime example. Medical scholars attribute the discovery to Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. During these initial days, it was not uncommon for patients to receive bloodletting and enemas as primary forms of treatment.
We have come a long way. We now know that strokes result from a lack of blood flow to the brain. We no longer rely on bloodletting, but instead, call on the public to recognize symptoms and help those who suffer from a stroke get the care they need. In 1998, medical experts aimed to help the public understand potential symptoms using the acronym FAST. The acronym, FAST, stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, and Time matters — as in, it is time to call for emergency medical help. Since its introduction, major medical organizations, including the National Stroke Association and American Heart Association (AHA), have adopted its use.
Medical professionals hoped this acronym would be an easy way for the public to recognize a potential stroke and help the patient seek immediate care, increasing the likelihood of recovery.
Advances continue to evolve the best practices when it comes to stroke care. FAST has now evolved to BE FAST, adding the need to check the patient’s balance and eyes for blurred vision as additional signs of a potential stroke.
What is standard care for acute ischemic stroke patients?
Treatment for a recent onset ischemic stroke where blood flow to a part of the brain is impeded generally includes a range of interventions, but most importantly, if the stroke is diagnosed within a matter of hours, clot-dissolving drugs and anticoagulation can restore blood flow and prevent permanent brain injury. For large vessel occlusions, interventional neurologists are able to actually remove clots from the arteries with special catheters. After the acute stroke is treated, ongoing care to prevent recurrence is important and includes the patient’s diet, exercise and blood pressure management.
How has patient care evolved in recent years?
In addition to expanding the acronym, as noted above, research and findings have led to updates to the guidelines medical professionals use to treat stroke patients. These guidelines were recently published in Stroke, a publication maintained by the AHA. Older treatments such as prophylactic corticosteroids or continuous hyperosmolar therapy, compression stockings, or antiseizure medication were ineffective; the new guidelines now are effective at preventing permanent injury in many patients by dissolving and removing a clot before permanent damage. Post-stroke care is important to preserve the brain function that the acute treatment saved.