Recognizing symptoms, immediately notifying EMS vital to minimizing CVA damage
By Patrice Sawyer GuilfoyleSuspect a stroke? Call 911 immediately.
This simple message has been the focus of aggressive community outreach efforts by University Comprehensive Stroke Center staff for the last three years. Whether it’s sponsoring a Saturday health screening or collaborating with community hospitals around the state, UMMC health-care providers have worked to teach Mississippians how to prevent the disease that strikes hundreds in the state each year and to seek immediate medical care should they notice signs of a stroke.
Mississippi is a notch in the Stroke Belt, the southeastern part of the United States with an unusually high number of strokes and cardiovascular disease. What UMMC staff emphasizes through outreach is that strokes are preventable through various methods, such as controlling blood pressure, not smoking, weight control and exercise.
However, if someone suffers a stroke, the sooner they seek medical attention, the better the chance for survival or recovery.
Pam Hargett, clinical outcomes coordinator, said the recurring theme of all stroke awareness events is for people to recognize the symptoms and to call for emergency medical services (EMS).
“Time is brain, so it’s critical to call 911,” Hargett said. That message seems to be resonating, along with other efforts, based on the number of stroke cases admitted to the Medical Center since 2009.
“We’ve doubled our admissions since 2010,” said Dr. Rebecca Sugg, director of the stroke center and interventional vascular neurologist.
Sugg and Neal Kiihnl, stroke program manager, attribute the jump in admissions to several factors that include building relationships with EMS personnel, referral outreach to community hospitals and educational programs.
The Stroke Center won the 2011 Outstanding Group award from the National Stroke Association because of its work in educating or performing risk assessments on more than 6,000 people over the past year and thousands more through other community outreach activities. Sugg said the program should be proactive with this disease education.
“This is not a disease we cannot do anything about,” Sugg said. “Over the last 10 years, we have therapies that can stop the stroke in progress.”
She said other options are research protocols offered nowhere else in the state but at UMMC and interventional surgery. Sugg, who’s board-certified in neurology, vascular neurology and neuroimaging, said the greatest obstacle in raising stroke awareness is the disease itself.
“Most of the time, there’s no pain associated with it. Most people think that whatever they’re feeling will go away or it’ll get better,” she said.
Kiihnl said the community hospital outreach is an important part of the team’s efforts. Nurse practitioners or physicians who take a patient can speak to a neurologist by phone or through the TeleStroke system.
“The hospitals have the backup and support to get accurate recommendations and the ability to transfer to this institution,” he said. “This gives the hospitals a level of comfort.”