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Why proper treatment matters for stroke victims

A stroke can be a devastating healthcare disaster for a person. The cutting of the flow of blood to a person's brain can leave them with significant medical problems for years, if it does not kill them outright. Because the stoppage of blood flow is typically localized to one side of the brain, it often leaves victims with diminished or no ability on one side of their body. The ability to speak and understand, see or move limbs on one side of their body may be severely compromised.

Some strokes are less severe, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and sometimes called a "mini-stroke," from which people often recover, some seemingly with few lasting side effect. However, TIAs may be more costly than first appears. A misdiagnosis or other medical malpractice can exacerbate the damaging effect of a stroke if they are not quickly identified and treated.

A study published in the journal Neurology suggests that full economic cost of even minor strokes is greater than previously understood. The study examined both full strokes and TIAs. Victims of a full stroke lost almost four years off life expectancy and those with TIAs lost on average about three quarters of a year. However, those who suffered TIAs also lost a full year of quality of life.

The study recommends that prevention is important, but accurate diagnosis and treatment are vital. With a stroke, every second the brain is deprived of oxygen, the damage increases and the quality of life and the need for expensive medical care also increases. Proper recognition of the signs of a stroke and rapid, appropriate treatment are essential.

The study also recommends more widespread use of clot-busting drugs to minimize the effects of a stroke, as that could improve the quality of life for those affected.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Strokes take years off life, and life out of years," Melissa Healy, October 9, 2013

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