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RiverView Health: Younger Stroke Patients Coming In, Know the Signs

Community news | Thursday, May 20, 2021

May is Stroke Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death.

A stroke occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, a stroke can occur in people of all ages. In fact, nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.

According to RiverView Health Emergency Department Coordinator Ashley Dufault, RiverView has seen an increase in stroke cases recently in a younger demographic. “We haven’t been seeing your ‘typical’ stroke patients. More young people are coming in with strokes and stroke-like symptoms. That is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms of a person having a stroke. Strokes can be treatable and even preventable, but time is key.’’

RiverView became an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital in April of 2016. “What that means is that RiverView has voluntarily decided to meet the standards set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health so we can give the best care possible to patients exhibiting symptoms of a stroke,’’ reported Dufault.

To be eligible as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital, redesignation must take place every three years. RiverView’s next survey will take place in 2022. An Acute Stroke Team must also be available 24/7, consisting of an Emergency Department physician, RN, and staff from the lab and diagnostic imaging. The Team is held accountable for completing stroke education, and all stroke charts are reviewed for performance improvement possibilities.

“We work closely with Sanford Fargo so that a neurologist can see the patient’s imaging, vitals, and labs as soon as they are documented,’’ Dufault shared. “We follow a written stroke protocol, which includes the door-to-CT model, meaning as soon as staff is aware a patient exhibiting stroke symptoms is enroute, we can bring them right in the door to the CT scanner.

“The Emergency Department works closely with the local EMS companies, and they are excellent at giving a heads-up when a patient is exhibiting stroke symptoms, so staff can be ready and waiting when they arrive.’’

Stroke patients treated at RiverView are at an advantage, according to Dufault, because RiverView can give IV Alteplase, also known as the clot-buster, if indicated, which is not the case at all critical access hospitals. RiverView also can get stroke patients to a higher level of care by both ground and air ambulance.

“If conservative management is the patient’s preference, our Inpatient Unit has not only unmatched nursing and physician care, but also the teamwork provided by physical, occupational, and speech therapy to ensure the patient receives the highest level of care. After discharge, RiverView staff ensure the patient is recovering adequately and receiving any post-hospital care required.’’

Dufault stresses that it is better to overreact to stroke symptoms than ignore them. “Calling 911 is the right thing to do, even if you are wrong. Calling 911 and getting EMS care could have a lasting impact on a loved one.’’

For more information on stroke-related services at RiverView Health, please call 218.281.9200.

Ashley Dufault