Emergency Department

Warning Signs of a Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.

Immediate emergency treatment with tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours of symptom onset can minimize the debilitating effects of a stroke.

Lowell General Hospital has been designated a Primary Stroke Service by Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), for demonstrating a solid system of emergency and neurological services that meet or exceed stringent state standards, In the event of stroke, Lowell General Hospital's Stroke Team is ready to provide timely, effective emergency treatment close to home. When it comes to stroke, immediate treatment saves lives.

Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:

  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the face, an arm, or a leg-especially on only one side of the body
  • Sudden blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding simple statements
  • Loss of balance or coordination, especially when combined with another symptom
  • Sudden, severe, and unexplained headache-often described as "the worst headache of my life"

One or more of these symptoms may appear briefly and then disappear. These episodes may be "mini-strokes," known as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Don't ignore TIAs. They are a powerful warning that a full stroke may soon follow.

Stroke FAQs

During a stroke 32,000 neurons die per second. Blood clots stop the flow of blood to the brain and without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue starts to die within minutes – resulting in a sudden loss of function.

There are two types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage of an artery from a blood clot or plaque. They can form elsewhere in the body, break free and travel to the brain (embolic strokes), or they can form in the arteries of the brain from a clot or plaque build-up (thrombotic strokes). About 88% of all strokes are ischemic.

Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a burst blood vessel. They can occur inside the brain (intracerebral) or outside the brain (subarachnoid) in the space under the arachnoid membrane.  An aneurysm is a weakened area on an artery wall that can burst or can slowly leak blood into or outside of the brain.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, sudden change in mental status, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause


Face – Ask the person to smile. Does is droop on one side?
Arm – Ask the person to close their eyes and hold out their arms, palms up. Does one arm drift down or are they unable to lift one arm?
Speech – Is their speech slurred or are they having difficulty finding words or not making sense?
Time – Time lost – brain lost. The brain ages 3.6 years each hour without treatment during an ischemic stroke. Act FAST.

  • Patients over the age of 55
  • Family History
  • African Americans
  • High Blood pressure (leading cause)
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial Fib
  • Smoking

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