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Stroke is an emergency

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0011-5029(96)90003-6
  • Education
  • Medicine


Abstract Stroke is an emergency. Ischemic stroke is similar to myocardial infarction in that the pathogenesis is loss of blood supply to the tissue, which can result in irreversible damage if blood flow is not restored quickly. Public education is needed to emphasize the warning signs of stroke. Patients should seek medical help immediately, using emergency transport systems. Therapy geared toward minimizing the damage from an acute stroke should be started without delay in the emergency room. This includes measures to protect brain tissue, support perfusion pressure, and minimize cerebral edema. Strategies for improving recovery should also begin immediately. All major medical centers need stroke teams and stroke units. Stroke prevention should be given high priority as a public health strategy. Risk factor management should be part of general health care and should begin in childhood, with emphasis on nutrition, exercise, weight control, and avoidance of tobacco. Health screening and early treatment of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia has decreased the incidence of stroke and heart disease, but these efforts need to be expanded to reach all segments of the population. Basic research has opened the door to new therapies aimed at re-establishing blood flow and limiting tissue damage. Clinical trials have already led to changes in stroke prevention, including studies of carotid endarterectomy and ticlopidine and warfarin therapy (for patients with atrial fibrillation). Trials in progress are testing the usefulness of ancrod, neuroprotective agents, antioxidant agents, anti-inflammatory agents, low-molecular-weight heparin, thrombolytic drugs, and angioplasty. Any delay starting therapy after an acute stroke will result in progressive, irreversible loss of brain tissue. Clinicians should remember that for a stroke patient, time is brain tissue.

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