A Stroke is a small blockage in a blood vessel of the brain, which causes oxygen starvation to that part. This oxygen starvation can cause a loss of function, related to the area of the brain affected. Dependant on the length of time the area is blocked, the damage may become irreparable. The blockage is usually caused by a small blood clot, although incursions such as air bubbles can have the same effect.
There are two main types of stroke - a CVA (Cerebro-vascular Accident - sometimes called just a stroke or major stroke) and a TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack - sometimes called a mini-stroke).
The difference between a CVA and a TIA is simply the duration of the symptoms. If the symptoms pass in the first 24 hours, the underlying condition is called a TIA. If the symptoms persist, then it is categorized as a stroke. Obviously, for the purposes of first aid, these must be treated in the same way, since waiting 24 hours for symptoms to pass in order to tell CVA and TIA apart would not meet the purposes of first aid.
|To test for the affected side of a stroke, have the victim squeeze your hands at the same time. You will notice a difference in pressure that they may not.|
The key recognition signs for a stroke can be remembered with the acronym FAST, which stands for:
- Facial Weakness - Can the person smile correctly? Observe if one side of the face droops.
- Arm Weakness - Can the person raise both arms and hold them parallel without one drifting? If they squeeze your hands can they exert equal force?
- Speech problems - Can the person speak clearly and repeat a simple sentence correctly?
- Time - Call the local emergency medical services phone number or take the patient to the hospital immediately.
The victim may also experience additional symptoms, which on their own typically do not indicate a stroke. These include:
- Sudden blurred, dim or patchy vision
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden, severe, unusual headache
- Every second counts.
- Call for an ambulance
- Reassure the victim
- Encourage and facilitate the victim to move in to a position of comfort if possible. If they have significant paralysis, they may be unable to move themselves, so you should make them as comfortable as possible where they are. If possible, incline them to the unaffected side (if there is one), as this will help you relieve some symptoms such as a feeling of floating.
- Take vitals, history and regular observations
- Call for an ambulance
- Assess the victim's ABCs (attempt CPR if not breathing)
- Assist the victim into the recovery position on their unaffected side where gravity may assist blood to reach the injured side of the brain, which is then below the unaffected side of the brain. Additionally, bleeding (if any) may drain out the ear.