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Victims of strokes may be familiar with the saying that “time is tissue.” This of course means that the time that elapses from the onset of a stroke to treatment directly affects the long-term prognosis for recovery. Doctors are typically taught that they have only six hours to save brain tissue from major injury.

But, as the Washington Post reports, that time may actually be closer to sixteen hours:

Advanced brain imaging technology may give doctors an additional 10 hours or more to respond to some strokes, researchers said Wednesday, a development that may soon bring major changes to the way hospitals treat one of the leading causes of disability and death.

In fact, in “response to the studies, new stroke treatment guidelines were released Wednesday.” According to George W. Albers, M.D., a professor of neurology at Stanford University Medical Center, collateral blood vessels will take over for major vessels in feeding oxygen to the brain in most patients.


According to the Washington Post:

The key is the imaging technology developed at Stanford, Albers said. When a CT scan that uses a dye shows a larger area of damaged tissue surrounding the dead tissue, doctors can respond by removing the clot as long as 16 hours after the patient was last known to be well.

As pointed out by Peter Panagos of Washington University in St. Louis, hospitals now need to act quickly—even outside the initial six hour window—to get patients to facilities that can perform thrombectomies so that brain tissue can be saved.

As always, if you suspect someone is having a stroke, it is important to document onset of symptoms and get them to a hospital as quickly as possible. A quick way to help determine if someone is having a stroke is the acronym FAST:

  1. Facial drooping: do you notice the patient’s face drooping on one side? Ask her to smile and see if she can control the muscles in the face to make a smile.
  2. Arm weakness: this can easily be tested by asking your patient to raise her arms over her head;
  3. Speech impairment: ask your patient to say her name; and,
  4. Time is of the essence: even with the new information discussed here, seconds count when getting a stroke victim emergency medical care.

FAST is an easy way to quickly recognize whether someone is in trouble, and as noted above, it puts the emphasis on urgency—because time is everything in stroke treatment.

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