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Better Stroke Treatment for Every Part of Minnesota

GRAPHIC: The symptoms of a stroke can be easily remembered with the acronym FAST. Courtesy American Heart Association of Minnesota.

GRAPHIC: The symptoms of a stroke can be easily remembered with the acronym FAST. Courtesy American Heart Association of Minnesota.


May 27, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - National Stroke Awareness Month is quickly coming to a close, but it's hoped lessons learned about stroke treatment will last long beyond the end of May.

Megan Hicks, quality improvement coordinator, Minnesota Stroke Registry Program, explains since brain damage can mount with each passing minute, it is critical to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, which can easily be remembered with the acronym "FAST."

"The 'F' is for facial droop. 'A' is for arm weakness. 'S' is speech difficulty and 'T' is time to call 9-1-1, and recognizing that a stroke is an emergency," says Hicks.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in Minnesota, taking about 2,000 lives each year. In an effort to reduce the number of deaths and improve outcomes for survivors, Hicks says the state Department of Health and the American Heart Association have led the development of an innovative, voluntary approach to advance the Minnesota Stroke System.

"This is based on a coordinated system of care between ambulance agencies, community hospitals in rural areas and larger hospitals that provide harmonized care," says Hicks. "The ultimate goal of this system is that every person in Minnesota has access to timely care, regardless of their location in the state."

Key to the effort is the designation of hospitals as "stroke-ready." Only 17 in the state are certified now, but Joanie Somes with the Emergency Nurses Association says nearly 30 others are in the process of applying.

"We're giving them the information that they need," says Somes. "'These are the criteria. This is how you would triage your patients to the nearest facility.' And then, making sure that the facilities have the knowledge and the information and the equipment, as well as the medications that they need to take care of strokes."

Somes, who is an emergency room nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, says there are currently more than one million Minnesotans who live more than an hour away from a certified stroke center.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN