AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Yes America, Time IS Brain

“Time is brain” is such a frequently repeated mantra of stroke neurologists that it seems almost to have become cliché. For more than a decade, fliers, lectures and even billboards have been admonishing us to get to the hospital immediately when we develop symptoms of stroke such as speech trouble or weakness. The longer a stroke victim goes without treatment, the more brain damage accrues and the greater the likelihood of permanent disability or death. Using the latest methods to restore flow to blocked arteries, neurologists can improve the outcomes of stroke victims beyond anything imagined before the “Decade of the Brain.” 

It was distressing to be called recently to see Sam, a 55 year old, via teleneurology consultation. Sam had fallen at home around midnight. When his wife noticed his complete paralysis on the left side, she wanted to call the EMS. However, he refused to let her do so and dragged himself to bed. When he was no better by the morning, they came to the ER more than 12 hours after the stroke started. Sam’s arrival to the hospital was far too late; the damage was complete. He was unable to even wiggle his toes or fingers on the left side, and was suffering severe left facial weakness.

Unless clot busting medicine is given or a clot is physically removed from a blocked artery within a window of just a few hours, brain cells die without exception. The struggle against time to save brain capacity is an uphill battle. Rather than facing a prospect for a good recovery and being able to walk or dance again, Sam is now likely to remain under nursing care for years to come.

Contrast Sam’s story with that of Britt, a young college student who suddenly found himself unable to move or speak while at home. His family also immediately recognized the signs of stroke, but unlike Sam, Britt was brought to the ER quickly. A study of his brain revealed the blocked artery and Britt soon underwent a procedure to open it. Within a day’s time, he was back to normal, his brain cells recovering when oxygenated blood returned after the artery was opened.

Today, Britt can look forward to decades of normal living. Sam? His fateful decision to ignore serious symptoms and go back to bed has cost him his freedom. Regardless of clichés, Time is Brain. The urgency of timely diagnosis and treatment in cases of stroke cannot be understated.


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