By Lesli Skolarus, M.D., M.S.
Associate Professor, Neurology, University of Michigan
Sarah Bailey, M.A.
Executive Director, Bridges into the Future, Flint, MI
May is Stroke Awareness Month, and we would like to share some information about stroke and our research with you. Each year, about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Disability is the greatest challenge facing survivors and their families. About two thirds of stroke survivors are left with a disability.
Post-stroke disability is substantially reduced by acute stroke treatments, which include intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and intra-arterial treatment. Unfortunately, these treatments are underutilized—administered to less than 5 percent of U.S. stroke patients. Treatment with tPA must be given in the emergency department (ED) within 4.5 hours of the start of stroke symptoms. 1 The main reason stroke patients do not receive tPA is that they wait too long to call 911. 2 Think of tPA like Drano® for your brain: We want to get the plugged pipe—in the case of stroke, the plugged artery—open as soon as possible. The less time the artery is plugged, the lower the chance of brain damage, so it is extremely important that a person who is experiencing stroke symptoms calls 911 right away.