Don’t ignore stroke symptoms, doctors urge
12 March 2012
Stroke experts at Southend University Hospital are urging patients not to let their brains die by ignoring important symptoms.
Their warning comes after a dramatic fall in the number of
people dialling 999 for an ambulance after the first indications
they are suffering a stroke. During last year's national FAST*
campaign, when advertisements were shown on prime-time TV, Southend
doctors were seeing six out of 10 stroke casualties within the
recommended three hours of the first symptoms. But since the
publicity has been off-air, the number has dropped to just four in
10. And that, says lead stroke physician, Dr Paul Guyler, is having
devastating repercussions for the patient and their family.
He said: "People are not calling for help quickly enough. As
soon as a stroke starts - even a very mild one - part of the brain
dies at the rate of two million cells per minute.
"The faster people call an ambulance, the sooner we can stop the
damage and give the patient the chance to be fully independent
When ambulance crews are called to a suspected stroke, they
phone ahead to the hospital so that the patient is seen immediately
upon arrival and given any necessary scan. A stroke consultant is
on call 24/7 to interpret the scan and give clot-busting drugs
Dr Guyler said: "The sooner the drugs are administered, the less
the damage caused by the stroke."
He also stressed the need to seek help when stroke symptoms -
often just described as 'a funny turn' - are just fleeting, as they
are frequently the precursor to a full-blown stroke.
"Even if you recover rapidly, it is important to get immediate
help as one in eight people who have a transient ischaemic attack
(TIA), or mini stroke which disappears quickly, will go on to have
a major stroke. This means calling an ambulance so that their
condition can be assessed. If they are high-risk they will be
admitted and treated to prevent a stroke, and if they are low-risk
they will be referred to our specialist clinic within a week for
This may be involve a carotid endarterectomy to remove any build
up of dangerous debris (atheroma) which impedes the flow of blood
to the brain in the carotid artery.SouthendUniversityhas two
specialist vascular surgeons, Mr Matthew Jakeways and Mr James
Brown, who work closely as a team to perform these operations.
Dr Guyler said: "There is so much we can do to help people who
suffer a stroke or TIA and give them their life back and prevent
them being permanently disabled.
"For those who experience fleeting stroke symptoms, we can
reduce their risk of a full stroke by more than 80 per cent if we
get them here in time. Our expert surgeons are highly-skilled and
do more of these operations than any other hospital in the region -
so our patients are in safe hands."
Mr Brown added: "People having a heart attack have pain as a
warning. With stroke it might be slurred speech or weakness in
their limbs. This is a brain attack and - like a heart attack -
needs immediate treatment."
- Facial weakness
- Arm or leg weakness
- Speech problems
- Time to call 999