Maine CDC Press Release

May 4, 2009

Maine Strengthens Public Stroke Awareness and Stroke Systems of Care

Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH
John Martins, Director Employee and Public Communications

AUGUSTA – To help increase the number of stroke patients who receive treatment for stroke, the Maine CDC’s Cardiovascular Health Program (MCVHP) is working with several statewide partners, including the Maine Affiliate of the American Stroke Association, to raise public awareness of stroke symptoms and the need to call 911 immediately when these symptoms are witnessed.

During May’s Stroke Awareness Month, the MCVHP encourages people at risk for stroke, and their family members, friends, and caregivers, to learn the signs of stroke.

“Sometimes a person experiencing a stroke may not realize it is occurring, but bystanders can recognize the symptoms and act immediately,” said Dr. Dora Mills, Director of the Maine CDC.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in Maine. In fact, more than 3,000 people are hospitalized due to stroke in this state each year. In 2005, 700 deaths from stroke were reported in Maine, but that same year, only 19 percent of Maine residents could correctly identify stroke symptoms and the need to call 911 for stroke.

The symptoms of stroke include sudden:

  • numbness in the face, arm, or leg
  • slurred speech
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness or loss of balance
  • severe headache

Any ONE of these symptoms is a reason to take action. At the first sign of stroke, call 911 immediately.

Survival and successful recovery are improved if these symptoms are recognized quickly and immediate medical attention is given; the sooner a stroke patient receives treatment, the more likely that long-term brain damage and disability may be avoided.

"When you see someone having a stroke, call 911 immediately," said Mills. "Getting stroke victims to the hospital right away can greatly increase their chance of having little or no disability.”

In addition to these efforts to increase public recognition of stroke, statewide partners, including the MCVHP, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), hospitals, healthcare systems, healthcare providers, rehabilitation experts, and health advocacy groups such as the American Stroke Association, are working to improve stroke systems of care, to ensure that Mainers suffering a stroke receive the most timely and effective care possible once 911 is called.

Efforts include development of protocols and education for EMS providers and hospital teams providing care to stroke patients, to ensure they are identified, transported, diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively, to improve patient outcomes. In July 2008, the Maine Office of EMS added a pre-hospital stroke scale to state-wide EMS protocols, and ongoing regional training is occurring to ensure consistent use of the protocol. Training efforts include three region-wide stroke conferences for EMS providers and/or law enforcement officers, in southern, mid-coast and northern Maine.

In September 2008, the MCVHP awarded grants to four Maine hospitals to conduct one year projects focused on stroke diagnosis and treatment to improve patient outcomes. Grantees and projects include:

  • Cary Medical Center in Caribou – Linkage of EMS and Emergency Department protocols and providers to increase speed and enhance stroke diagnosis and treatment capacity in one of Maine’s most rural regions

  • Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor – implementation of “Get With the Guidelines-Stroke” quality improvement program of the American Stroke Association, in order to enhance the hospital’s capacity to diagnose and treat acute stroke patients

  • Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport – mentoring MidCoast Hospital in Brunswick and MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville and Augusta in achieving Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center certification

  • Maine Medical Center in Portland – working with MaineGeneral Medical Center to pilot a telestroke network, which links neurologists in Portland to Emergency Departments at the Waterville and Augusta campuses of MaineGeneral

At the end of their projects, grantees will share resources and experiences with the MCVHP, other hospitals and healthcare providers, so that stroke patients and providers state-wide can benefit from what has been learned and developed.

The Maine CDC’s Cardiovascular Health Program (MCVHP), in the Department of Health and Human Services, partners with community organizations, schools, employers, health care providers, and State-level organizations to prevent CVD deaths, and improve overall cardiovascular health in our State. MCVHP promotes a way of life that supports and includes physical activity, healthy eating, being tobacco-free, preventing and controlling high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, and increasing timely, quality care for heart attacks and strokes. This is accomplished by partnering with State-level organizations, providing health education to Maine residents and offering technical assistance, resources, and training to community organizations, health care providers, and employers.