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Stroke and the First 24 Hours: What You Need to Know

By HERWriter Guide
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Stroke and the First 24 Hours: Here's What You Need to Know Divakaran Dileep/PhotoSpin

Because of how quickly a stroke can cause brain damage — literally within minutes — getting to a hospital as soon as possible can make all the difference when it comes to survival and recovery.

EmpowHER describes a stroke as a brain injury. It occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted. Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue dies quickly, in less than 10 minutes. This causes a sudden loss of function.

The Stroke Association advises that if a person is exhibiting certain signs, they need immediate help.

They call it FAST:

F - Face Drooping
A - Arm Weakness
S - Speech Difficulty
T - Time to Call 911

If these symptoms occur, medical help is imperative. The Stroke Association also says to look for :

- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face

- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding

- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

- Sudden severe headache with no known cause

So what happens to the brain in the first 24 hours of a stroke? The patient needs to be rushed to the ER where doctors can evaluate the kind of stroke a patient has had.

Caring.com describes the two kinds of strokes well:

“Strokes are categorized as either ischemic or hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes (also called white strokes) occur when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked, preventing blood from flowing to part of the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes (also called red strokes) are caused by a broken or torn blood vessel bleeding into or around the brain.”

Treatment will subsequently depend on the kind of stroke. The right drugs will be used to help contain damage, and the sooner they are administered the better, for long-term recovery.

Physical therapy (rehab) can also start within 24 hours of stroke. This may seem really fast but again, the sooner rehab starts, the better.

If a person can start this while taking the necessary drugs, they have more of a chance at recovery. Rehab will include speech therapy as well as learning how to walk again, how to swallow properly, and how to use motor skills properly.

The ultimate goal is for the patient to become independent again. Because of this, family involvement is also very important. Family members can learn how to help with fine motor skills and how to assist the patient once he/she gets home.

Stroke victims will essentially need to re-train both their bodies and brains.

Psychological help may also be needed. A stroke can change a person’s life completely and even permanently.

This can cause depression and therapy can help. Family and friends should be on the lookout for signs that a stroke victim may be becoming depressed.

If possible, 911 should be called and an ambulance sent out. Ambulances can travel fast and personnel can start treating the patient straight away. Additionally, the ER will be waiting and prepared to start treatment.

Because brain tissue dies so quickly, treatment within the first 10-20 minutes can decide not only the quality of survival, but survival itself. Even if treatment isn’t immediate, it needs to be as soon as possible.

If you suspect a loved one has just had a stroke (or you are having one and are able to call for help) don’t wait — call 911 straight away. Every minute counts, when it comes to a stroke.


Stroke Definition & Overview

The Stroke Association. Warning Signs. Web. Retrieved May 18th 2015.

Care After Stroke. What to Expect for the First 24 Hours After a Stroke. Web. Retrieved May 18th 2015.

Reviewed May 19, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments

3 steps to recognize a stroke :
1. Ask the person to smile
2. Ask the individual talk and speak a simple sentence
3. Ask him/her to raise both arms

If he or she has trouble with any one of these tasks,call emergency number immediately or rush him/her to the nearest hospital facility

January 23, 2016 - 4:34am
EmpowHER Guest

The first 24 hours may be critical but you didn't mention that maybe 10% of those eligible for tPA actually get it. And of those getting it it only works to completely reverse the stroke 12% of the time. http://wrkf.org/post/more-stroke-patients-now-get-clot-busting-drug

May 20, 2015 - 12:17pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Hi Anon,

That is a good point about TPA but it is still not used as often as it might because of risk of bleeding, previous medical history that would but them at greater risk of bleeding and the person must receive TPA within 3 hours of their stroke symptoms.  

People show up in the ER with stroke symptoms and the doctors may have no idea what their history is so they cannot predict who will have increase bleeding elsewhere in their body from the TPA as well.  Plus, the person may need to have confirmation from a CT that they do not have a bleed in their brain versus a clot.

Here is a info sheet from heart.org for other readers to look at:



May 28, 2015 - 6:14am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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