July 22, 2019 by John Fernandez
Get Stroke Smart
Being stroke smart can mean the difference between permanent disability and a successful recovery.
Do you know the symptoms — however subtle? They include a moment of confusion, a weak feeling on one side of the body or slurred speech.
With a stroke, like a heart attack, quick and skillful treatment can save a life.
Do you have risk factors for stroke, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes?
People suffering a stroke in Miami-Dade County now have greater access to timely care. Baptist and South Miami Hospitals are part of a countywide Stroke Network, a collaboration with the Fire Officers Association of Miami-Dade, aimed at getting the quickest and best treatment for stroke patients by transporting them to primary and comprehensive stroke centers.
Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States and survivors can face debilitating and long-lasting problems, such as memory loss and difficulty walking and talking.
“The key is getting quickly to a hospital that can best care for stroke patients,” said Yvonne Johnson, M.D., medical director of South Miami Hospital’s Emergency Center. “The faster you get here, the better your chances of survival and recovery.”
There are different types of stroke, but often a stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in or near the brain.
“The arteries that lead to the brain are like the branches of a tree,” said neurosurgeon Sergio Gonzalez-Arias, M.D., medical director of the Baptist Health Neuroscience Center. “When the artery is clogged, the area in the brain it supplies blood and oxygen to will die and the area around it is susceptible to more damage. The faster we can treat a stroke, the better chance we have of eliminating damage altogether or preserving some of the area that would have died.”
When someone has signs of a stroke, the first step is to call 911. Paramedics and rescue personnel try to determine when the symptoms started. That’s because if the patient can get to a primary stroke center within 3 ½ hours of the first sign of a stroke, they may be able to receive tPA, a drug that dissolves blood clots.
Baptist Health hospitals treat more stroke patients than any other hospital system in Florida. A primary stroke center, such as South Miami Hospital, must have a multidisciplinary stroke team available 24/7, as well as advanced diagnostic capabilities. Such centers also must meet time requirements for evaluating patients, carrying out a CT scan and administering clot-busting medicine like tPA.
Finally, a primary stroke center must have a transfer process in place for patients who need care at a comprehensive stroke center, where patients are taken if it’s been longer than 3 ½ hours since their first stroke symptom.
Baptist Hospital is one of four designated comprehensive stroke centers in Miami-Dade. Comprehensive centers must meet the same criteria as primary centers, but also offer neurosurgery, neurointerventional procedures and comprehensive rehabilitation services.
Doctors at Baptist Hospital sometimes use advanced techniques to thread a small catheter up through the groin and into the brain. There, they can remove the clot and insert a stent, a tiny metal tube that helps keep the artery open.
Similarly, they can use this minimally invasive approach to treat strokes caused not by blood clots but by bleeding in the brain.