Specialists at Intermountain Medical Center’s Stroke Program want Utahns to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and to call 911

Jason Carlton




The Center for Disease Control estimates 610,000 people in the United States suffer a new stroke each year. Specialists at Intermountain Medical Center’s Stroke Program want Utahns to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and to call 911 – because in the first minute of a stroke, the brain loses an estimated 1.9 million cell. 

“We treat more stroke patients in Utah than any other hospital in the state,” said Robert Hoesch, MD, Intermountain Medical Center Stroke Program director. “The reality of it is that brain attacks occur regardless of age or gender and can strike at any time of day or night. That is why we have an attending-level neurologist available in our facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we can assure more rapid diagnosis and treatment for stroke patients.” 

Ashley Irvin, 23, was an unlikely stroke victim, whose family’s quick reaction helped save her life. 

She was at a family barbeque when she developed a right-side weakness and had trouble talking. Her family quickly recognized the signs and called 911. She was taken to Intermountain Medical Center, diagnosed with a stroke, and administered a life-saving medicine, tPA, within 18 minutes of arriving at the hospital. 

National stroke guidelines recommend tPA to be administered within 60 minutes from the time the patient arrives at the hospital. Intermountain Medical Center’s average time, door to needle, is 48 minutes, meaning the impact of a stroke on the patient can be minimized. 

While some factors that increase someone’s risk of stroke are out of their control – age, gender and ethnicity – there are some unhealthy habits that people can control, including smoking, drinking, poor eating habits and inactivity. 

Kelly Anderson, RN, researcher with Intermountain Medical Center’s Stroke Program, has done extensive research on stroke symptoms and awareness. Her public education focus has lead to the development of a simple message: BE FAST! Call 911. 

• Balance – Sudden loss of balance or coordination 
• Eyes – Sudden change in vision 
• Face – Sudden weakness of the face 
• Arm – Sudden weakness of an arm or leg 
 Speech – Sudden difficulty speaking 
• Time – Time the symptoms started 

“If we can help people better recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and get the help they need more quickly, we can reduce the harm caused to the brain during a stroke,” said Anderson. “Any time we are working with the public, whether it’s at a community health fair or presentation, we stress the importance of BE FAST and have seen the public gain a better understanding of why time is of the essence.” 

The Intermountain Medical Center Stroke Program has eight attending-level neurologists that rotate through the shifts to provide coverage 24/7 to stroke patients. For more information about stroke, visit http://www.intermountainmedicalcenter.org/stroke.
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