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A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.


There are 2 main causes:


  1. ISCHAEMIC: Where the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot (accounts for approx 80% of cases).
  2. HAEMORRHAGIC: Where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and causes brain damage.


Like all organs the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients, provided by blood, to function properly. If the supply is restricted or stopped brain cells begin to die leading potentially to brain damage and even death.


This is a Medical Emergency and if you spot the early signs and symptoms using the pneumonic FAST (see below). An early response can save much of the brain from irreversible damage.


Signs & Symptoms:

If you suspect a stroke carry out the 'FAST' test:

  • F = Facial Weakness – can the person smile? Has one side of their face drooped?
  • A = Arm Weakness – can the person raise or hold both arms up?
  • S = Speech Problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • T = Test all three signs! – dial 999 if they do not pass any part of the assessment.



  • Maintain Airway and Breathing.
  • Dial 999 without delay, NOT your GP (though often advisable to ring GP after dialling 999 as may be very local and therefore to get there quicker than ambulance and instigate treatment).
  • Lay the patient down, with head and shoulders slight raised.
  • Reassure the patient – do not assume that they do not understand what you say.
  • If patient becomes unconscious place in recovery position.
  • The speed at which we respond to this medical emergency will have a dramatic impact on the patients recovery.



There is a condition called TRANSIENT ISCHAEMIC ATTACK (TIA) where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted causing a MINI STROKE. This should be treated seriously as it is often a warning sign that a stroke is coming.




We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.
You might also be interested in our blog. One of our associated articles is 'A guide to seizures and related first aid'.

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Read 23890 times Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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Clive Haddrell Cert Ed LIQA MSET

NHS Paramedic Tutor, NHS Ambulance Emergency Driving Tutor, FAETC 1&2, Cert/Ed, D32, D33, LIQA. Manual Handling Tutor (RoSPA) and Member of the Society for Education and Training. I have over thirty years experience with the former Avon Ambulance Service NHS Trust, and recently with Great Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust. My experience includes the role of paramedic tutor, rapid response motorcycle paramedic. For the last 25years paramedic advisor to the well-known BBC television program "Casualty".

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