Stroke (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

What should be done if you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke?

If any of the symptoms mentioned above suddenly appear, immediate emergency medical attention should be sought. The first action should be to activate the emergency medical system in your area (call 9-1-1 if it is available). The goal is to get the stroke victim to a hospital as quickly as possible to confirm the diagnosis. An urgent medical decision is necessary in the emergency department to determine whether thrombolytic or clot-busting drugs can potentially reverse the stroke situation. There is a very limited window of opportunity from the onset of symptoms to when this therapy can be used. If delays occur, the opportunity to intervene is lost.

The first priority is ensuring that the ambulance arrives as soon as possible. First responders, EMTs and paramedics may be able to help make the diagnosis and alert the hospital about the stoke victim's situation.

While waiting for the ambulance, the following first aid suggestions may be helpful:

  • The affected person should lie flat to promote an optimal blood flow to the brain.
  • If drowsiness, unresponsiveness, or nausea are present, the person should be placed in the rescue position on their side to prevent choking should vomiting occur.
  • Although aspirin plays a major role in stroke prevention (see below), once the symptoms of a stroke begin, it is generally recommended that additional aspirin not be taken until the patient receives medical attention. If stroke is of the bleeding type, aspirin could theoretically make matters worse. Moreover, patients with stroke may have swallowing difficulties and may choke on the pill.

Three commands, known as the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS), may help to determine if the potential for stroke exists. Ask the patient to do the following:

  1. Smile: the face should move symmetrically
  2. Raise both arms: looking for weakness on one side of the body
  3. Speak a simple sentence

If a potential stroke victim cannot perform these tasks, 9-1-1 should be called to activate the emergency medical system. Ideally, a person suspected of having as stroke or stroke-like symptoms should be taken to a hospital certified as a stroke treatment center.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/10/2013

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Stroke - Symptoms Question: For stroke, what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?
Stroke - Therapy Question: What therapy did you undergo after your stroke?
Stroke - Risk Factors Question: Do you have any risk factors for stroke? If so, what are they and what are your concerns?
Stroke - Recovery Question: What has recovery been like after you or a loved one suffered a stroke? Please share your story.
Stroke - Prevention Question: To reduce your risk, what dietary or lifestyle changes have you made to prevent a stroke?