NIH Stroke Scale Overview

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NIH Stroke Scale Defined

The National Institute of Health (NIH) stroke scale (NIHSS) is a common method used by neurologists, nurses, and other medical professionals to determine the level of of neurological impairment created by a stroke. One primary purpose for the NIH stroke scale is to provide an assessment for a stroke patient’s need for medicinal treatment such as tPA. Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) is a powerful blood thinner used by hospital emergency room personnel to break down artery-clogging blood clots. Once a blood clot has been resolved, the blood flow returns and minimizes brain damage to the stroke patient.

A secondary purpose is to establish comparisons among stroke patients for various stroke treatments including surgeries, rehabilitations, and medicines. The NIH stroke scale accuracy allows a medical team to create both initial and follow-up care plans.

Scale Measurements

The NIH stroke scale measures different levels of brain function. These levels include vision, speech, sensation, motor strength, language, and consciousness. During a neurological examination, a specific number of points is awarded to each brain function. For instance, the scoring system ranges as follows: 0 meaures no stroke, 1-4 measures a minor stroke, 5-15 measures a moderate stroke, 15-20 measures moderate to severe, and 21-42 measures a severe stroke which requires the greatest level of treatment.

The NIH stroke scale accuracy is based on the medical observer’s ability to assess the stroke patient and it can be given to patients at bedside. Also, the NIH stoke scale can be administered in under one hour.

Medical Personnel Certification and Training

The NIH stroke scale accuracy is provided by trained medical personnel. Some of the personnel include neurologists, nurses, and therapists. There are different methods for obtaining certification and training. For example, the National Stroke Association (NSA) provides an NIH stroke exam service for medical professionals to have the exam scored by a neutral third party. This service includes registration into a database as a certified stroke exam professional, reference materials, and a confirmation letter with his/her score.

There is no standard method for how often medical personnel should re-certify for the NIH stroke scale. Medical organizations, medical associations, and hospitals can determine their own certification standards. A typical recertification period is one year and it is important for NIH stroke scale accuracy to have medical personnel with the most up-to-date skills administer the test.

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/doctors/NIH_Stroke_Scale_Booklet.pdf