If you experience a stroke, this means that the blood flow in an important artery which supplies your brain has stopped, leading to the sudden development of neurological symptoms such as paralysis and slurring of speech.
As a prolonged lack of oxygenated blood has a massive effect on nerve cells, it is vital to minimise the time span between the onset of symptoms and starting treatment as much as possible.
The most common symptoms of stroke are muscle weakness, paralysis, drooping of the mouth on one side and slurred speech. These symptoms form the basis of the slogan Stroke – act F.A.S.T. that is being used by public awareness campaigns about early treatment of acute stroke.
F for face: is one side of the patient's face drooping? Is her smile uneven?
A for arms: can she raise both her arms and hold them there?
S for speech: can she speak? Is her speech slurred or otherwise difficult to understand?
T for time: time is critical – ring for an ambulance immediately (the telephone number to call is 112 in most European countries).
The doctor can diagnose you after a quick neurologic examination. Imaging techniques such as CT and MRI are used to rule out intracranial haemorrhage as a possible cause of the symptoms.
In most cases, the first type of treatment for patients is a dose of a drug which can dissolve blood clots that is given directly into the veins. This is known as fibrinolytic therapy. If your symptoms are caused by a blood clot in a relatively large blood vessel and you are unsuitable for or do not respond to fibrinolytic therapy, you may undergo endovascular treatment. This involves an interventional radiologist removing the blood clot under X-ray guidance, with the help of devices placed through microcatheters.
If you have acute stroke, you will be admitted to hospital for treatment and it is likely that you will stay in hospital for at least a few days.