The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) are working to together to raise awareness about the warning signs of stroke and the importance of getting to the emergency department fast with a campaign called “Give Me 5: Walk, Talk, Reach, See, Feel.”

    A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of disability. However, research shows the public remains unaware of its warning signs and the need for immediate medical attention, even if the symptoms subside. Those symptoms include sudden difficulty walking, talking, reaching and seeing, as well as sudden and severe headache.
    The campaign says, “If you recognize the sudden signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1!” It also urges people to say “I think this is a stroke,” about themselves or someone they are with, when speaking with a 9-1-1 operator, paramedic, triage nurse or emergency physician. The campaign includes a toll-free phone number, 1-888-4STROKE, and a tri-branded Web site, www.giveme5forstroke.org, where the public can obtain more information, brochures and a give-away item.
 
    “I was driving when the right side of my body suddenly felt weak,” says Dr. Diana Fite, an emergency physician who suffered a stroke in 2006 at age of 53. Thanks to prompt medical attention, she has since made a full recovery.  “I realized it was a stroke when the car started to swerve. Because I am an emergency physician, I knew to call 9-1-1 to get help immediately, which is why I made such a great recovery. But I know from my experience as a doctor that too many people ignore stroke symptoms or wait for them to go away, with tragic results. ‘Give Me 5’ is a great tool for people to identify a stroke quickly and get help fast.”

    The campaign coincides with new research released in February showing a tripling in the rate of strokes among middle-aged women, the campaign’s targeted audience.

    “This surge of strokes in middle-aged women in a short period is very alarming,” says Dr. Ralph Sacco, fellow member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The important message of the ‘Give Me 5’ campaign is early identification of stroke symptoms and early intervention by doctors in the emergency department. That can make the difference between life and death.”

Local Attention
    At Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, a multidisciplinary team is ready to respond quickly in the event of a stroke. From emergency room to imaging, surgery or inpatient care, Thibodaux Regional ensures excellent care during those initial critical minutes and hours. This continuity of care continues with inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Thibodaux Regional assists patients in developing new skills, relearning skills that were lost as a result of the stroke and making adjustments to everyday life. The medical center offers a highly skilled therapy staff with advanced NDT (neuro-development treatment) training. Their mission is to improve the quality of life and maximize each patient’s ability to perform daily tasks. They understand how a stroke or other disabling conditions leave families looking for help. You can trust the experience, dedication, personal attention and team approach that the rehab professionals at Thibodaux Regional provide.

    At Culicchia Neurological Clinic, physicians include neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists and specialists in physical rehabilitation and pain management. No other neuroscience practice in Louisiana offers the depth of practice as Culicchia Neurological Clinic, with specialists in neurology, stroke, neurological rehabilitation, neurosurgery, complex spinal surgery, neurovascular skull base surgery, interventional diagnostic neuroradiology, physical medicine, chronic pain management and neuroscience clinical research.

    ”The latest data I have seen is from 2005, and indicated there were almost 800,000 new or recurrent strokes every year,” says Walter Truax, M.D., who specializes in neurology and is Director of the West Jeff Rehab Unit which treats many recovering stroke patients. Truax also sees many patients at West Jefferson Medical Center’s Stroke Unit which is dedicated solely to the care of stroke patients.
“We find that people treated through a stroke unit end up doing better in the long term.

    Dr. Truax says the number one problem with stroke is hypertension that goes untreated. “There is such an increased incidence of stroke in hypertensives,” he says. “The second problem is diabetics and trying to control blood sugar. Other things that come into play are genetics – research shows that African-Americans have a higher incidence of stroke compared to Caucasians. Family history plays some part but particularly important is maintaining normal cholesterol levels. Also, excessive alcohol use predisposes people to stroke, as does cigarette smoking. People need to eliminate these habits and try to manage their lifestyles.”

    Dr. Truax points to the time factor in managing strokes. “We have drugs approved by the FDA, but they must be administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms. People who have symptoms of stroke should go directly to the emergency room, where we obtain a scan of the head, but that takes time.”

    At West Jefferson, the stroke team is mobilized every time a patient with stroke is admitted. Culicchia Neurological Clinic is an independent practice with offices adjacent to West Jefferson Medical Center. The doctors also associate with Ochsner on the West Bank and Touro.

    Culicchia Neurological Clinic has offices in Gretna, New Orleans and Marrero. Call 340-6976, or visit www.culicchianeuro.com.

    Cardiovascular Institute of the South is one of the nation’s most respected groups of cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and thoracic surgeons, representing nearly every specialty in heart and vascular medicine. While most leading medical centers are located in a single facility within a large city, CIS and its staff of more than 475 dedicated CIS team members and nearly 40 physicians bring comprehensive cardiovascular care close to home by serving patients in 11 locations throughout south Louisiana.

    According to Peter Fail, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with CIS, patients are better informed about stroke today than they have been in the past. “They are better informed but our biggest obstacle is that a patient will have minor symptoms a day or two before the acute stroke but they will ignore it. Then they wait too long before they get really worried and come in. If they have mini-strokes prior to their acute stroke, they may get better after their symptoms appear. So by the time the really bad stroke happens, they are still convinced that the symptoms will go away.”
    Dr. Fail also says that although speech problems sometimes correct themselves to an extent following a stroke, paralysis and movement issue generally do not.

“Younger patients tend to do better than older patients but often the older patient’s brains are to a point where they do not recover what is lost.”

    CIS offers a comprehensive heart and vascular program that includes specialized medical professionals trained in nuclear cardiology, electrophysiology, prevention services and lipid management, as well as interventional cardiovascular procedures and cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. CIS is a world-leader in treating peripheral vascular disease. CIS physicians serve as clinical investigators for many new and innovative medical devices and often share their knowledge by lecturing around the country about the latest methods of treating both cardiac and peripheral vascular disease. For more information, visit www.cardio.com.

    Slidell Memorial Hospital’s MH Rehabilitation Unit at Slidell Memorial Hospital is a 15-bed adult unit. Neuro-developmental treatment trained therapists are on staff, along with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, a recreation therapist, nurses and a full-time social worker. The unit is the only comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehab program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities on the Northshore. The hospital’s CARF-accredited Stroke Rehabilitation unit also was recognized as an outstanding performer for superior “Functional Independent Measure” outcomes, placing among the top 10 percent of hospitals in a survey of 800 hospitals by the Universal Data Systems for Medical Rehabilitation.

Neurology
    The doctors at Southern Brain and Spine focus on degenerative diseases of the entire spine and brain surgery. ”We specialize in brain microsurgery and cutting-edge minimally invasive spinal procedures,” says Dr. Najeeb Thomas. Dr. Thomas works with three other neurosurgeons, Dr. Richard Corales, Dr. Rand Voorhies, Dr. Lucien Miranne; and with Dr. Justin Lundgren, who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation in non-operative treatments of the spine. The doctors treat all spine and brain-related problems, and are dedicated to providing personalized state-of-the-art care to the greater New Orleans area.

    The doctors are actively involved in research relating to treatment of spinal disorders. At Southern Brain and Spine, minimally invasive decompressions and percutaneous fusions are performed only after non-surgical options have been explored. Multiple non-surgical treatment options are available to patients. The office is located at 4228 Houma Blvd., Suite 510, Metairie. For appointments, call 454-0141. For more information, visit www.sbsdocs.net.