Stroke Emergency Care
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and a leading cause of death.
If you or someone near you is having a stroke, every second counts. At Virginia Mason, our emergency stroke team is available 24 hours a day.
The team is part of Virginia Mason's Stroke Center, which is certified by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center. It features a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients admitted to the Emergency Department.
If you or someone near you has one or more of these symptoms, do not hesitate: Call 911 and tell the emergency operator what signs of stroke are present.
Warning signs include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Try to note when symptoms began so you can tell the medical team. Immediate action is vital: If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
An easy way to remember is to think FAST:
Treatment for a stroke emergency begins when the emergency medical system team arrives at your side. The EMS team assesses vital signs and symptoms, provides life-saving treatment (such as CPR) if needed, and prepares the patient for transport to the hospital.
EMS teams notify us when they have a patient en route. For strokes, the Emergency Department team makes preparations before the patient even arrives, including:
- Starting patient registration
- Preparing the CT scanner
- Activating the stroke team
Virginia Mason is conveniently located on First Hill, just minutes away Capitol Hill, and downtown Seattle, and ambulances arrive quickly.
Every second counts in treating a stroke. When the ambulance arrives at Virginia Mason, the Emergency Department stroke team is ready. Typical immediate steps include:
- CT scan to identify what type of stroke you have experienced
- Vital signs and blood work
- Neurological exam
- IV line to prepare for clot-busting medication
Once a stroke diagnosis is confirmed, a neurologist and pharmacist determine the appropriate medication and dosage, which is administered right away.
Medicare compares the hospitals across the country on their performance for caring for stroke patients, and reports the findings at medicare.gov. These findings show Virginia Mason has higher percentages than the state and national average for many stroke care factors, including:
- Patients receiving clot-busting medication within three hours of first symptoms
- Patients receiving medications to prevent blood clots while in the hospital
- Patients discharged from the hospital with prescriptions for preventing blood-clot complications
- Patients and caregivers given written educational materials about stroke care and prevention
As a certified Primary Stroke Center, Virginia Mason meets all of the rigorous standards set by the Joint Commission on American health care for timely and effective stroke care.