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Symptom Awareness Alert Friends Speed Stroke Care

In study, urging by a loved one cut time-to-treatment by 80%

THURSDAY, March 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A recognition of the seriousness and severity of stroke symptoms, plus the urging of family and friends, are key to how quickly a patient calls for help, new research shows.

"The time from symptom onset to seeking medical help is influenced by a patient's perception of the seriousness of symptoms, being advised by others to seek help, and calling 911 immediately," study author Dr. Lori Mandelzweig, researcher at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel, said in a prepared statement.

A quick response to ischemic stroke can be critical. If a patient arrives at a hospital within three hours of having an ischemic stroke, he or she may receive a clot-busting drug to restore blood flow and reduce brain damage.

When the researchers interviewed 209 stroke patients (average age 62) in this study, they found that:

  • patients who called for an ambulance reduced their risk of delaying treatment by almost 75 percent;
  • those who perceived their symptoms as "severe" cut their odds of delayed treatment by almost 60 percent, compared with patients who failed to recognize the severity of their stroke symptoms;
  • patients who experienced sudden onset of stroke symptoms were highly unlikely to delay seeking treatment;
  • a patient's perception of control of symptoms was associated with a more than fivefold risk of delay in women;
  • when another person recognized the seriousness of stroke symptoms and urged the patient to get help, there was a more than 80 percent reduced risk of delaying treatment.

The findings, published in Stroke, highlight the need for more public education about recognizing and responding to signs of stroke, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about the warning signs of stroke.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 23, 2006
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