Northwestern Press

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ensuring better health outcomes for stroke victims

Thursday, May 16, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

According to the National Institutes of Health, every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke, and every 40 minutes someone dies from a stroke.

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. However, research shows the faster a person is identified as having a stroke and gets treatment, the better the outcome.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and I would encourage everyone to learn to recognize the signs of a stroke by remembering the acronym FAST:

·F: Face: Does the face droop on one side when the person smiles?

·A: Arm: After raising both arms, does one of the arms drift downward?

·S: Speech: After repeating a simple phrase, does the person’s speech sound slurred or strange?

·T: Time: If any or all of the above are observed, call 911 and ask for medical assistance.

A recent law I authored is also working to help those who may suffer a stroke. Act 4 of 2017 takes optimal advantage of recent federal guidelines that create three specific levels of certified stroke centers to treat patients based on their individual needs.

The three levels of certification are primary stroke centers, acute stoke-ready hospitals and comprehensive stroke centers.

Pennsylvania has 81 certified primary stroke centers.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, we have St. Luke’s Hospital and Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Cedar Crest location, which became one of the first comprehensive stroke centers in the nation in 2012.

The new law directs emergency responders to take stroke victims to the nearest appropriate stroke center qualified to treat the severity and type of stroke occurring.

This ensures stroke patients receive the best possible treatment.

Previously, emergency responders were directed to transport stroke victims to the nearest “primary stroke center,” which did not take into account that different hospitals have different equipment and physicians who specialize in certain types of stroke response.

This simple change in procedure is making a big difference in the health care of thousands of stroke patients each year.

For more information about strokes, go to stroke.org.

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Editor’s note: State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, a Republican, represents the 134th Legislative District, which includes Alburtis, Lower Macungie Township, Macungie, Salisbury Township (Wards 4 and 5) and South Whitehall (District 3 and 4) in Lehigh County; and Hereford, Longswamp, Richmond and Rockland townships, and Topton Borough in Berks County.