Iftekhar Ahmed, MD, medical director of The Stroke Care Center at Research Medical Center

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States suffers a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA). As a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, stroke impacts the lives of 795,000 individuals annually.  Accurate and timely diagnosis is key to helping anyone who experiences the onset of stroke receive the most appropriate drugs and most advanced stroke treatments. 

Known for its community-based patient care and as Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider, HCA Midwest Health System is a leader in stroke care and is observing National Stroke Awareness Month by encouraging people to understand and recognize TIA, risk factors and symptoms. 

Iftekhar Ahmed, MD, medical director of The Stroke Care Center at Research Medical Center, is an internationally known expert in TIA (transient ischemic attack) and stroke.  According to the ASA, a TIA occurs when the brain does not receive enough blood momentarily and is a warning or mini-stroke that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage.  Symptoms appear similar to a stroke, but can resolve within minutes to hours. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke. 

Dr. Ahmed, who has presented research findings on TIA and stroke at domestic and international conferences around the world, was a founder of the innovative TIA clinic at Research Medical Center in late 2008. Additional HCA Midwest Health System clinics have opened, including Belton Regional Medical Center, Centerpoint Medical Center, Lee’s Summit Medical Center, Menorah Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center. All hospitals—part of HCA Midwest Health System, Kansas City’s largest healthcare network and private sector employer—provide a comprehensive one-day, thorough evaluation for stroke in one convenient location, including evaluations that conclude with a consult from a board-certified neurologist.  Test results are forwarded to the patient’s primary care provider in order to determine the best treatment plan. 

“HCA Midwest Health System’s TIA clinics provide convenient, high-quality care in a comfortable environment,” says Dr. Ahmed.  “Patients receive diagnostic testing in one stop to avoid visits to multiple locations for testing. Many strokes are preventable if caught early.” 

According to the American Stroke Association individuals experiencing a TIA are at a greater risk for a full stroke, especially if there are additional high-risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and/or a part or current history of smoking. 

Dr. Ahmed cites the findings of a population-based Oxford University study published in 2009 as significant in understanding the importance of emergent intervention for TIAs. 

“The statistics for stroke after TIA are compelling,” says Dr. Ahmed.  “Ten to 15 percent of people with TIA have a stroke within two weeks and of those 17 percent have a stroke the same day.  Another six percent of patients experience a stroke the day following TIA and more than 45 percent have a stroke in the seven days following.  In 30 days following TIA, 30 percent are at stroke risk and in one year 60 percent of people with TIA are at stroke risk. Urgent intervention after TIA is highly effective for preventing stroke.” 

Dr. Ahmed’s personal experience with TIA involved a 40-year-old friend who experienced classic stroke symptoms. “He was at work when suddenly he couldn’t write and his speech was slurred,” he says.  “A 90 percent blockage was discovered on his left side.  He underwent surgery to unblock the artery and sustained some immediate neurological damage. With rehab and time he has fully recovered, thanks to quick action on his family’s part.  But if he had been seen at a TIA clinic, the stroke may have been prevented.” 

Symptoms of a stroke may include one or more of the following: numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache with no known cause.  If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

People experiencing any of these symptoms may need to be seen in an HCA Midwest Health System TIA clinic. Prompt medical attention for any of these symptoms could prevent occurrence of a fatal or disabling stroke. 

To make an appointment at the HCA Midwest Health System TIA clinic nearest you, request a physician referral or call (800) 386-9355.