How to Screen for Stroke
A stroke is a life-threatening condition that necessitates immediate medical attention. The earlier treatment begins, the lower the risk of brain damage. However, if immediate treatment is not sought, the patient may suffer permanent disability, paralysis, or death.
The stroke screening process not only identifies the specific location of any blood vessel abnormality but also details blood circulation in those areas to identify and prevent a stroke risk before any symptoms appear. The brain relies on oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream to function. A blockage, constriction, or break in the blood vessels supplying the brain can disrupt blood supply and affect brain function, resulting in brain cell destruction and a significant reduction in brain functioning capabilities.
Strokes are classified into two types: ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. Ischemic strokes are the more common of the two, accounting for roughly 70% of all strokes, while hemorrhagic strokes account for the remaining 30%.
High blood lipid levels cause some types of ischemic strokes, resulting in increasing amounts of fat adhering to blood vessel walls until blood flow is restricted. Other types of ischemic strokes occur because of blood clots, which can be caused by a clot in the brain's blood vessel system or a clot that formed in another part of the body and traveled up to the brain, disrupting blood flow. Furthermore, some systemic disorders, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking, hasten blood vessel deterioration in the brain.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur because of the patient's high blood pressure and high blood lipid levels, which cause blood vessels to lose flexibility and make them prone to breakage. This type of breakage results in an immediate interruption of blood flow to the brain, which is why this type of stroke is so dangerous, with the potential to cause death very quickly.
Strokes can occur because of a variety of factors, including those that can and cannot be regulated and changed, as well as age, gender, and genetics.
- Blood pressure that is too high. This is the most dangerous cause of both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes, with patients who have high blood pressure being up to eight times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not.
- High lipid levels in the blood. When fat accumulates and becomes stuck on blood vessel walls to the point where blood flow is restricted and the vessels lose their flexibility, it increases the risk of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Patients with high blood lipid levels are up to 2-3 times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not have them.
- Diabetes causes blood vessel stiffness and brittleness, making diabetics 1.8-6 times more likely to have a stroke than non-diabetics.
- Some types of heart disease. These can result in clots that can travel up into smaller arteries in the brain and cause a stroke.
- Stenosis of the carotid artery. Because of decreased blood flow to the brain and clots traveling up to smaller arteries in the brain, patients with this condition are twice as likely as people without the condition to have a stroke.
- Cigarette smoke contains nicotine and carbon monoxide, which reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain while also damaging blood vessel walls, making smokers 2-3 times more likely to suffer a stroke than nonsmokers.
- Obesity and weight gain. These are major causes of other health problems that can result in abnormalities in the blood vessel system of the brain. Patients who are obese or overweight are 1.3 times more likely to have a stroke.
Health care providers have a duty to monitor and screen patients. Furthermore, the failure to timely diagnose stroke could amount to medical malpractice.
Risk factors that cannot be altered include people over the age of 55 having a 50% increase in stroke risk every ten years. This is because blood vessels deteriorate with age, becoming thicker and less flexible, while fat and calcium accumulate on the blood vessel walls, men are more likely than women to have a stroke, and patients with a family history of strokes are more likely to have a stroke, and people who have already had a stroke are at a greater risk of having another one.
Risk factors that can be avoided or modified can include managing any chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high blood lipid levels, exercising for at least 30 minutes per session, five days per week at a moderate intensity, quitting smoking (if applicable), and attending annual health screenings and undergoing a stroke screening. If you are found to be at high risk for stroke, follow your doctor's advice and seek immediate medical attention, even if the initial symptoms of a suspected stroke, such as weakness, numbness down one side of the body, blurred vision, dizziness/vertigo, unsteadiness, and a severe headache, have completely disappeared.
The severity of the symptoms displayed by a stroke resulting in reduced brain function varies greatly. Having said that, the following symptoms are common in stroke victims:
- Acute weakness in the arms, legs, facial muscles, or another part of the body.
- Communication issues include difficulty speaking, speaking slowly, drooping mouth, and inability to understand what is being said.
- A severe headache that occurs suddenly and without warning or apparent cause.
- Sudden onset of blurred or fractured vision.
- Difficulties walking or balancing, vertigo.
- Suddenly reduced consciousness.
However, in some cases, symptoms may only affect the patient briefly before disappearing. Alternatively, symptoms could occur repeatedly before the brain loses its blood supply permanently. As a result, if any unusual symptoms appear, seek immediate medical attention.
Currently, the stroke screening process can effectively identify the exact location of any blood vessel abnormalities, meaning that stroke risk can be found before any symptoms present themselves. Stroke screening assesses the following:
- Blood viscosity and complete blood count.
- Blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels.
- Screening rates of blood vessel inflammation.
- Electrocardiogram to assess whether or not the patient suffers from arrhythmia.
- Carotid duplex ultrasound examination.
- Transcranial Doppler ultrasound examination.
- MRI scans to check the state of the brain’s blood vessels or analyze the severity of a stroke.
Stroke treatments depend entirely on whether the stroke is an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke. In cases of an ischemic stroke, the patient will be given antithrombotic medication to clear the blood vessels and allow for improved circulation. For best results, any treatment should be carried out within 4.5 hours of the stroke’s onset. This time frame may be stretched to 24 hours if the patient is at a hospital capable of catheter-based interventions for the removal of the blood clot. With regard to hemorrhagic stroke cases, to regulate the patient’s blood pressure and prevent brain damage, some patients may be required to undergo emergency surgery in cases of severe bleeding in order to stem the bleeding and reduce pressure in the skull. Medical providers have a duty to timely implement stroke treatment, and the failure to do so may be considered medical malpractice.
Many patients who undergo timely treatment for their stroke have a higher chance of making a full recovery and returning to their former lifestyle, while some patients may require an extended period to do so. All of the patients require multidisciplinary standard medical care for the recovery of their moving, eating, swallowing, and communication capabilities. This is achieved by physical rehabilitation, occupational therapy, a proper nutrition plan designed by a dietician, and psychological support from the medical provider and the patient’s family.
Nevertheless, the most crucial part of post-treatment care is to strictly follow the advice of doctors, take medication as prescribed and be sure to attend every doctor’s appointment thereafter. This is important because inconsistent post-treatment care has the potential to affect a patient’s recovery and result in another stroke, with potentially life-threatening consequences. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, we represent injured clients and their families throughout Upstate New York, including Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn, Ithaca, Oswego, Norwich, Herkimer, Delhi, Cooperstown, Cortland, Lowville, Oneida, Watertown, Utica, Canandaigua, Wampsville, Lyons, and surrounding areas. Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form to discuss your case.