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Senator Johnson Hospitalization Highlights Importance of Quick Action

December 14, 2006

Sioux Falls, SD - Senator Tim Johnson's hospitalization is prompting health officials to alert the public about the importance of seeking immediate medical help if stroke-like symptoms appear. According to Mary Jones, director of neuroscience at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, there is a clot-busting drug that can help, but it must be administered within three hours of a stroke.

"It's shown to be very effective in reducing the effects of stroke if given within that timeframe. It does not provide any benefits outside of that three-hour window. So, when someone starts to develop signs and symptoms of stroke, they need to respond immediately, to determine whether they can receive this medical treatment or not."

Jones explains the kind of stroke a person suffers will determine whether the drug is an appropriate treatment.

"There is an ischemic stroke, when a blood clot blocks an artery and causes a lack of blood supply to that area of the brain. The other type of stroke is where the brain has a bleed; the vessels burst and it bleeds through, which is called a hemorrhagic stroke. If you have a hemorrhagic stroke, you are not a candidate for the clot-busting drug."

Jones says a stroke team, such as the one at Avera McKennan Hospital, includes specialists who can immediately evaluate the patient.

"That would be the emergency medical physician and the neurologist. We also have our radiology department, our lab and all the other ancillary departments that would be there to benefit the treatment of the stroke."

A study released by the American Heart Association last year quantified and timed the brain damage that occurs from a stroke. It found that for every 12 minutes a patient endures a stroke, a pea-sized portion of brain dies. Jones says stroke symptoms can include dizziness, sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, understanding, seeing, walking, or loss of balance, or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.

For more information, visit this Web site: .

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD