Monday, February 21, 2011

Live TV lesson about stroke signs

The chilling video of  Los Angeles TV reporter Serene Branson was played over and over the last few days. She began stumbling over slurred words on live television. Her face appeared not quite symmetric - class stroke signs.

Turns out, as U.S. News and World Report reported, her severe migraine mimicked a stroke:

Doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, who performed a brain scan and blood work on Branson, said she suffered a type of migraine - often called a complex or complicated migraine - that can mimic symptoms of a stroke, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Dr. Ralph L. Sacco, president of the American Heart Association and chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explained that "a complicated migraine can often masquerade as a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack, sometimes called a mini-stroke)."

The symptoms can look just like a stroke, Sacco said, including loss of vision, blurry vision, paralysis on one side of the body, trouble speaking and trouble walking. "All kinds of things we associate with a TIA or stroke can be part of a complicated migraine," he said.

For people whose first experience with a migraine is a complex migraine, Sacco advises that they assume it is a stroke, however.

"If people have these classic symptoms, we should treat them as the emergency we think they are, which is a possible stroke," he said.
Branson did the right thing: Even though her symptoms subsided, she sought follow-up care. Too often, people don't see a doctor after a mini-stroke, setting themselves up for full-blown strokes. The lesson we can all take away: When you detect these signs, get help right away. It might just save a life.

From ABC News, a video of a good discussion of stroke signs:

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