Knowing the Signs of a Stroke is Not Enough

WASHINGTON, DC — Many African-Americans experiencing a stroke go without a critical treatment that could prevent irreversible damage, and new research from Georgetown suggests one reason why – a lack of action. While educational campaigns focus on knowing the signs of a stroke, an additional message has not gotten through: “If you observe someone having a stroke, act quickly and call 911!”

“Our research to date has shown that there is often a disconnect between knowledge and action. It’s not enough to only know the symptoms of a stroke. Someone has to call 911 immediately so the person having the stroke can be taken to the hospital and get treatment that could dramatically alter the person’s outcome,” says Chelsea Kidwell, MD, director of the Georgetown University Stroke Center.

The treatment Kidwell is talking about is tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator. It’s a drug delivered by IV designed to break up the blood clot within the brain that’s causing the stroke. If given promptly, tPA can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability. The key to this highly effective treatment, however, is that it must be given to the patient within a few hours of the start of stroke symptoms. Previous research shows that fewer African-Americans receive tPA than Caucasians. Kidwell’s group is working to ensure that this type of racial disparity is eliminated in our nation’s capitol.

Kidwell is leading a team of Georgetown investigators heading up the Acute Stroke Program of Interventions Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities, or ASPIRE Program.

“My team and I have been studying what sociocultural and environmental barriers might affect underserved populations including African-Americans in Washington, DC,” Kidwell says. “Now that we have some answers, we’re trying to increase the rate at which African-Americans get tPA.”

ASPIRE works with DC community members and health professionals at local facilities and hospitals to create a comprehensive stroke education strategy designed specifically to increase the number of patients receiving acute stroke treatments. A city-wide intervention campaign mobilizing Georgetown-trained stroke educators throughout DC started in earnest last month with a goal of hosting 500 sessions and reaching over 125,000 DC residents. The ASPIRE team also is working with DC EMS to ensure that stroke victims get to a certified primary stroke center immediately to receive the most appropriate treatment. In Washington, there are three certified primary stroke centers: Georgetown University Hospital, The George Washington University Hospital, and Washington Hospital Center.

“If we can increase the rate of those getting tPA by just a few percent, we can dramatically impact peoples’ quality of life and eliminate an unacceptable disparity in stroke care.

To get more information about ASPIRE or to host an educational session about stroke, please email project coordinator Shauna St. Clair or call her at 202-687-7288.

ASPIRE is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.



Karen Mallet (media only)