Learning to recognize the symptoms of stroke


Every hour counts for stroke victims. The sooner these individuals get to hospital, the less brain damage they will suffer. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Heart and Stroke Foundation and Urgences Santé have been working together to raise awareness about the symptoms of stroke and the importance of getting stroke victims to the hospital to receive treatment as fast as possible.

"By the time an individual arrives in hospital some permanent damage has already occurred," said Dr. Richard Riopelle, Chairman of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the MUHC. "We are now one year into this partnership program and the results have been immensely encouraging."

Strokes are caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain. This can occur as the result of ruptured blood vessels or by a blood clot blocking the flow. Each year, approximately 50,000 Canadians have strokes and 18,000 die. Additionally, stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults over 40 years of age.

"The stroke programs at the MUHC use specialized 'clot-buster' medication which, if administered within three hours of the stroke, can restore blood flow to the affected parts of the brain," said Dr. Robert Côté, MUHC neurologist and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Quebec Heart and Stroke Foundation. "About 40 percent of patients recover and return to normal life," explained Dr. Côté. "Our aim is to increase this percentage and send more patients home healthy."

Panagiotis Constantinides is an example of how the stroke awareness program can be crucial to one's survival. Despite having suffered a stroke last year, Mr. Constantinides has since recovered and is in good health. By being able to identify the symptoms he was experiencing, one of Mr. Constantinides' relatives rushed him to the hospital, ultimately reducing the damage that had occurred during his stroke. "It happened so fast and I am grateful that my sister-in-law recognized these symptoms of stroke, because I was not aware of them," said Mr. Constantinides. "I can't imagine what kind of state I would be in if I had waited a few more hours before going to the hospital after I had collapsed." The MUHC has two designated stroke centres, the Montreal General Hospital (MGH) and the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), where patients receive the best care by a multidisciplinary team of experts.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute, dedicated to the study of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, the MNI is one of the world's largest institutes of its kind. MNI researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The MNI, with its clinical partner, the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), part of the McGill University Health Centre, continues to integrate research, patient care and training, and is recognized as one of the premier neuroscience centres in the world. Already well known for its McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, the MNI will expand its brain imaging research in the next several years through a $28-million award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, made in partnership with the government of Quebec. There will also be further development of MNI initiatives in multiple sclerosis, optical imaging and nano-neuroscience.

Contact Information

Sandra McPherson, PhD
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
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