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Emergency stroke care

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention.Graphic showing the Act FAST symptoms and a person's showing the symptoms

If the supply of blood to the brain is restricted or stopped, the brain cells will begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

If you think you, or someone you know is suffering from a stroke you need to call 999 for an ambulance immediately.

A stroke is also sometimes called a brain attack, because it is just as life-threatening as a heart attack and has similar causes.

There is also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a sort of ‘mini-stroke’. TIAs should be treated very seriously as they are often a warning sign that a more serious stroke is to come.

The FAST test

A simple way to check for stroke in others is by using the FAST test. Look for:

  • Facial weakness on one side.
  • Arm weakness on one side.
  • Slurred speech or difficulty communicating.
  • Time is of the essence—if you spot these symptoms call 999 immediately.

It’s very important that you call 999 if you notice any of these ambulance with flashing lights on a London street

The faster a stroke is assessed the better the chances of you, or someone you know, making a full recovery.

Sometimes these symptoms will go away. But, it’s still vital you seek medical attention and call 111 even if everything has returned to normal, as it still needs urgent assessment, investigation and treatment by medical professionals.

When you call an ambulance you will be taken through a telephone assessment by a call handler and an ambulance will be sent based on your current symptoms.

Once an ambulance crew has arrived, our clinicians will make sure you’re safe and comfortable and check your vital signs, which includes heart rate and blood pressure.

We will also check your blood sugar levels and, if necessary, give you treatment on scene if these are low.

We can also access the shared plans you may have made with your doctor to give you personalised treatment.

If we think you might be having a stroke we will take you quickly to a specialist stroke centre for treatment.

The clock is ticking and, the sooner we can get you to the specialists, the better.

If you spot these signs, ‘Think FAST’: Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call 999.

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