By Dr. Stephen P. Busby

Every year, 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke, translating to 1 stroke every 40 seconds.

In Galveston County alone, about 5,000 people have a stroke every year and 1 in 25 will not survive the immediate hospitalization.

It is the leading cause of adult disability and the fourth leading cause of death in this country. It affects nearly every family.

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when an artery to a portion of the brain is blocked or bursts.

Within minutes, brain cells deprived of oxygen malfunction and eventually that part of the brain dies. Life-changing consequences include paralysis, mental incapacitation, difficulty in talking or understanding speech, visual loss, abnormal sensations, depression and a sense of helplessness associated with this devastating disorder.

Significant breakthrough discoveries in recent years prompted a federal mandate to establish a network of certified stroke centers, which provide an integrated team of advanced caregivers with specialized training in stroke care.

With this system of care, brain tissue at risk, but not immediately killed, in the minutes following the stroke can be salvaged, often reducing the final loss of brain tissue by two-thirds.

Sometimes, emergent therapies can completely avert the effects of stroke. However, therapies need to be initiated within a few hours of the stroke, with greatest benefits often resulting from those most quickly treated.

As a federally certified Primary Stroke Center, the University of Texas Medical Branch offers this complete care for stroke victims. We provide advanced emergency, medical, surgical and rehabilitation services in a coordinated treatment system designed to deliver the fastest care and best possible outcome.

At present, we are the only certified regional stroke center south of Houston.

Stroke is a medical emergency and time is brain. The longer it takes to get treatment, the more brain tissue may die.

Do not wait, hoping that the symptoms will go away. If you think you’re having a stroke or a warning of stroke, call 911 immediately. Paramedics or emergency medical technicians will initiate your stroke care in the ambulance.

In the case of our Galveston community, you can also securely send your information, vital signs and EKG directly to the UTMB ER, saving precious minutes for the limited window of opportunity available for emergent therapies.

It is now widely recognized that the single most important factor in stroke survival and outcome is reducing the time to get help.

UTMB is proud that the Galveston Emergency Medical Services is a crucial member of the team and our first responders in the chain of survival of stroke.

To reduce risk of stroke, a healthy lifestyle is essential, including daily exercise, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, stopping use of tobacco, minimizing alcohol consumption and getting appropriate medical treatment for risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity.

Take the time to learn the symptoms of a possible stroke and know that UTMB provides complete care for these conditions, including a post-stroke clinic for reduction of risk factors for recurrent stroke, as well as a stroke victim support group.


At a glance

Symptoms of a possible stroke:

•Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body;

•Vision loss;

•Difficulty talking;

•Difficulty walking; and

•Mental confusion.

.Dr. Stephen P. Busby is an assistant professor of vascular neurology and the medical director of the UTMB Stroke Center.