“In case I have an A-Fib-related stroke, what does my family need to know to help me? (I’m already on a blood thinner.) What can I do to improve my odds of surviving it?
Stroke is the most dreaded effect of having A-Fib. And an A-Fib-related stroke is usually worse because the clots tends to be larger. They often result in death or permanent disability.
Here are some basic facts and steps you and your family can take to prepare for and what to do if stroke strikes any member of your family.
Prepare Your Plan: The 4 Steps
For your own and your family’s peace of mind, you need to create a ‘Stroke Action Plan’.
Step 1: Learn the Signs of a Stroke
Make it a family affair. Discuss the most common signs of stroke: sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, most often on one side of the body. Stroke may be associated with a headache, or may be completely painless. Each person may have different stroke warning signs.
Step 2―Ask Your Doctor
Discuss with your doctor what actions to take in case of stroke. For example, some doctors recommend aspirin to help avoid a second ischemic stroke (A-Fib). If so, ask what dosage.
Step 3―Locate Your Nearest ‘Certified Stroke Center’
Why a Certified Stroke Center? If a stroke victim gets to a Certified Stroke Center within four hours, there is a good chance specialists can dissolve the clot without any lasting damage.
Only a fraction of the 5,800 acute-care hospitals in the U.S are certified as providing state-of-the-art stroke care.
A certified or ‘Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center’ is typically the largest and best-equipped hospital in a given geographical area that can treat any kind of stroke or stroke complication.
A Certified Stroke Center will have drugs such as Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) to dissolve the clot. Can use Clopidogrel or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) to stop platelets from clumping together to form clots. Or use anticoagulants to keep existing blood clots from getting larger.
So do your homework. To find the nearest certified or ‘Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center’ check these listings:
Step 4―Post Your ‘Stroke Action Plan’
Write up the three components of your plan (i.e., the signs of stroke, aspirin dosage and location of the nearest Certified Stroke Center).
What about your workplace? Locate the nearest Certified Stroke Center to your job, too, and post a copy.
Also, print handouts with the name and address of the nearest Certified Stroke Center (Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center) for EMS responders. Keep a bottle of aspirin nearby.
Store your ‘Stroke Action Plan’ in a special binder or post so that family can easily find the information.
If a Stroke Strikes: Work the Plan
1. Immediately call your emergency medical services (EMS)―even if the person having the stroke doesn’t want you to. (e.g., 911 in US and Canada, 0000 in Australia, 999 in the UK.)
Note: DO NOT try to diagnose the problem by yourself, and DO NOT wait to see if the symptoms go away on their own.
2. While waiting for EMS, administer aspirin in the proper dosage (if advised by your doctor beforehand) to help avoid a second stroke.
Note: The emergency operator might connect you to a hospital that gives you instructions based on symptoms.
3. When EMS arrives, tell them to take the patient to your nearest Certified Stroke Center (give them a handout with the name and address).
Note: If necessary, be firm, insist they go to your choice of Certified Stroke Center. (Realize that some paramedics and ambulance services have side deals with hospitals to take patients to their hospitals, even if it’s not the right hospital for stroke victims.)
The Wrap Up
A ‘Stroke Action Plan’ with specific steps is reassuring during a medical emergency and helps everyone stay calm. Your family will be confident they’re supporting you in taking the right action at the right time.
The only guarantee of not having an A-Fib stroke is to no longer have A-Fib.
Know that quickly going to a certified or ‘Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center’ may save you from the debilitating effects of an A-Fib stroke, or even death.
For additional reading, see Ablation Reduces Stroke Risk to that of a Normal Person.