Providers worry Louisvillians are ignoring stroke symptoms that go away, risking long-term brain injury | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Providers worry Louisvillians are ignoring stroke symptoms that go away, risking long-term brain injury

Louisville-area emergency rooms are set up to protect against COVID-19. Ignoring short-term stroke symptoms is very risky.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, Norton Healthcare has received 26% fewer stroke cases — a trend that worsened in May — raising concerns among health care providers that more patients in the Louisville area are risking debilitating brain injury.

The concern is that some are experiencing mini strokes with symptoms that may go away after a few minutes or hours. While they may have sought care during pre-pandemic times, a fear of the virus in hospitals causes them to hesitate.

A mini stroke — the clinical term is transient ischemic attack (TIA) — can serve as an early warning of a major stroke in the future. The immediate symptoms of a mini stroke and a regular stroke are identical, but symptoms from a mini stroke seem to pass quickly.

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Norton Healthcare operates the area’s largest stroke care system. At its core is Norton Brownsboro Hospital, which is certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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“People may be sitting at home with minor strokes because they are afraid to come to the hospital. I fear they will show up later with more severe strokes,” said Lynn Hundley, APRN, Norton Healthcare director for clinical effectiveness and stroke care. “The cause of TIA is the same as the cause of stroke. Our job is to identify that cause and get the appropriate prevention in place so a TIA doesn’t end up being a debilitating stroke.”

Norton Healthcare received 8% fewer stroke cases in March compared with a year earlier. The decline widened to 34% in April and 36% in May.

Louisville-area emergency rooms are prepared to handle suspected COVID-19 cases. In addition, sophisticated cleaning protocols mean each room is disinfected between patients.

RELATED: What has COVID-19 taught us about ‘getting sick’?

Norton Healthcare operates the area’s largest stroke care system with Norton Brownsboro Hospital at its hub. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission have certified Norton Brownsboro Hospital as a Comprehensive Stroke Center — the highest rating available.

Long-term effects of stroke can include paralysis, speech issues, vision issues, behavior changes and memory loss.

Symptoms of Stroke — BE FAST*

  • Balance — loss of balance, coordination or dizziness
  • Eyes — having trouble seeing or change in vision in one or both eyes
  • Face — uneven smile or face looks uneven, droopy or is numb
  • Arms — one arm drops when raising both arms; numbness or weakness in one arm
  • Speech — trouble speaking; slurred or difficult speech
  • Time — Note the time when symptoms start: Time lost equals brain lost.

*Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.


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