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Stroke care then and now

Posted on May. 30, 2014 ( comments)
Things were very different in 1950. A loaf of bread cost 14 cents, smoking was permitted in hospitals and stroke was a major killer of Americans.

Little was known about the cause of stroke in 1950 and, as a result, little was done for stroke victims. While stroke rates have declined a dramatic 70 percent in the last 60 years, stroke remains the third leading cause of death in the United States today.

Brian Kott, MD, is the Medical Director of the Stroke Program and Neurointerventional Radiology at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. According to Dr. Kott, the biggest strides in stroke care occurred in the last eight years. 

Dr. Kott remembers rushing to the Emergency Department to see a stroke patient approximately one decade ago. 

“I remember seeing a dramatic scene around a cardiac patient,” Dr. Kott said. “He was moaning in pain and had a team of nurses and doctors around his bed. The room with the stroke patient was empty. Both patients had life-threatening symptoms, but there was no sense of urgency with the stroke patient.”

“In that moment I realized we didn’t fully understand stroke.”

Fast forward to 2014

Today, MultiCare takes a collaborative approach to address stroke care. 

“Everybody has a role,” Dr. Kott said. “From the EMTs transporting the patient to the stroke team in the ED to hospitalists and interventionists; we have a great way to work together as a system to provide excellent care.”

Anyone coming to Tacoma General Hospital with symptoms of a stroke is met by a specially trained team of doctors and nurses who immediately assess the patient and start emergency response protocols. 

Within 45 minutes, the stroke team completes an exam and diagnostic tests to see what is happening in the brain and to prepare to start treatment. 

“We eliminate idle time in the ER,” Dr. Kott said. “We don’t want any time to go by if a patient can receive a medication or an intervention. Fast treatment improves outcomes for patients.”

For some patients, this rapid assessment means access to new therapies, such as clot-dissolving medications. For other patients with strokes caused by cerebral hemorrhaging, MultiCare offers the latest in neurosurgical interventions.

Dr. Kott, recognized as a South Sound pioneer for stroke care, believes an education-driven approach can save lives. He often gives talks to raise awareness for stroke resources in the community and urges people to take symptoms seriously and always call 911.

“Stroke can be hard to define because it comes with a grab bag of causes,” Dr. Kott said. “What’s important to remember is we need to take the symptoms of stroke seriously. A stroke is usually caused by a blood clot that blocks the blood flow to the brain. If the blood flow can’t get to the brain, the brain can’t get oxygen and it suffers.”

If you think someone may be having a stroke, use the acronym — F.A.S.T. — to assess:

FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? 

SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?

TIME If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to the hospital FAST. Brain cells are dying.

Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know have symptoms of a stroke. Note the time you or the other person experienced the first symptom. This information is important to health care providers and can affect treatment decisions.

About The Author

Jen Rittenhouse Jen Rittenhouse
Jen Rittenhouse is the social media manager for MultiCare and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. She writes stories that connect people with hospitals, health care and each other. You can reach her at [email protected].
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