For stroke patients who meet certain criteria, thrombolytic therapy to break down blood clots is the primary treatment option. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the most frequently used thrombolytic, is a protein that catalyzes the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin, the major enzyme that breaks down clots. To be eligible for tPA, the patient must reach a certified stroke center as soon as possible after symptom onset. By some estimates, only 3% to 5% of stroke patients get to the hospital in time to receive tPA.
Despite campaigns to educate the public to seek immediate help for symptoms of a suspected stroke, many people wait hours before doing so. Or instead of calling 911, they take the family car. Obviously, they don’t realize that minutes lost mean brain tissue lost or that stroke is a life-threatening emergency that warrants an immediate 911 call.
All nurses should know the warning signs of stroke, teach patients and families about these key clues, and spread the word about the importance of getting immediate help. Early assessment and rapid treatment are critical to saving brain cells—and lives. The goal of this course is to provide nurses with information on how to improve management of patients who have experienced a stroke and may be eligible for thrombolytic therapy.
Key Learning Outcomes
Dorothy Moore, DNP, RN, CCRN
Moore is a staff nurse at Kaiser Permanente Emergency Department, in Oakland, California, and an adjunct lecturer at California State University in Hayward.
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