Think FASST: What to know about strokes

Dr. Richard Vertrees Smith, the medical director of Mercy's Neuroscience Institute, explains the signs of stroke at his office in NW Oklahoma City. (KOKH/Jordann Lucero)

When it comes to stroke, people need to know the signs and get immediate attention if they or a loved one is experiencing them, doctors say.

The medical director of Mercy's Neuroscience Institute talked with FOX 25 about strokes. Dr. Richard Vertrees Smith said you should always remember "time is brain."

"Time is brain. Never delay if you think, or even remotely think, you or a family member is having a stroke," Dr. Smith said.

Most commonly, stroke is caused by a blood clot cutting off circulation to the brain. The faster doctors can remove the clot, the better the chance to avoid brain damage.

Saturday, OU's president David Boren suffered a stroke while at a ceremony honoring former Sooners football coach Bob Stoops. Boren had just finished his speech, when paramedics started to tend to him. The university says Boren will make a full recovery.

"It was immediately recognized. He was transported to a comprehensive facility that could take care of him," Dr. Smith said.

Strokes caused by loss of blood are painless, Dr. Smith said, so you have to know the signs to lookout for.

Think FASST:

  • F - face drooping
  • A - arm or leg weakness
  • S - speech impediment, which can be slurring or garbled speech
  • S - sight impairment, like double vision or vision loss
  • T- time to call 911

A patient can suffer from one or more of those symptoms.

"If there's any doubt, you just go right to the Mercy emergency room. Don't even think about it and you go through the door, and you say 'stroke'," he said. "We go 'Code Stroke.' It goes on the whole hospital PA system and when that happens, the team goes in to action."

Generally, you need to get to a hospital within 3-hours of symptoms starting, Dr. Smith said. You can get a clot dissolving treatment if you get there in that time frame.

At Mercy, there is a special stroke team and get you treatment up to 8-hours after onset. In the next few weeks, Mercy will have software that opens the window to 24-hours.

Still, the earlier, the better.

"Time is brain. Don't ever forget that," Dr. Smith said.

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