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Lack of Awareness of Acute Stroke Symptoms and Treatment Options Contributes to Underutilization of Important Therapy

Denver, Colo. – Important thrombolytic, or clot-busting, treatment for acute stroke victims may be underutilized due to poor recognition of stroke symptoms and inadequate knowledge of acute treatment options. This conclusion emphasizes the need for more structured stroke education and prevention programs for persons at high risk, according to a study presented at the 54th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., mailed a written survey to 1,086 randomly selected people in Olmsted County, Minn., and received 364 completed surveys. The survey assessed knowledge of overall definition of stroke, stroke risk factors, symptoms, treatment, and potential for prevention, along with prior medical history, attitudes towards health care, and other factors. Less than half of respondents could correctly define a stroke. While nearly all survey respondents recognized paralysis as a symptom of stroke, several other symptoms, such as the inability to articulate thoughts into words, visual loss, and numbness or tingling were far less commonly recognized. "We were surprised to find virtually no difference in knowledge of symptoms or treatment between those with stroke risk factors and those without," said study author Kelly Flemming, MD. Nearly two-thirds of respondents did not know about treatment options, or about the urgency of administering therapy, and less than half would call 911 if they thought they were having a stroke. Many respondents recorded that they did not think there was any treatment for stroke. According to study co-author Robert D. Brown, Jr., MD, MPH, the study results suggest a lack of knowledge about many of the key issues regarding stroke, and those at highest risk have some of the lowest levels of understanding. Dr. Brown said, "All health care providers can take this information to heart and improve our stroke education programs in the community. This includes stroke prevention, presenting symptoms, treatment options, and what to do if symptoms occur." "Thrombolytic therapy can be critical to the subsequent quality of life for stroke victims," noted Dr. Flemming, "and while stroke prevention education may be most helpful overall, education about the urgency of stroke treatment is perhaps most important in the event of a stroke." The clot-busting drug treatment must be given within three hours after onset of a stroke. Flemming and colleagues therefore recommend more structured education about stroke prevention techniques, stroke symptoms, and the implications of seeking medical attention at the first sign of stroke among those who are identified as being at high risk for stroke.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Editor's Notes:Robert Brown, MD, will present the research on behalf of lead author, Kelly Flemming, MD, during a poster presentation on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 at 3:00 p.m. in Exhibit Hall C of the Colorado Convention Center. He will be available to answer media questions at a briefing on Monday, April 15, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the AAN Press Room (Lobby C, Room 208) of the Convention Center.

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