Stroke treatment in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. The more time that passes without treatment, the less oxygen that is able to reach the brain. Fast treatment is critical to prevent long-term disability and even death.

The emergency room (ER) team at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center is available 24/7 to treat patients with stroke symptoms. We provide comprehensive care, from initial diagnosis through stroke rehabilitation.

If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing a stroke, call 911 immediately.


Fort Walton Beach Medical Center is recognized as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. Our hospital has also received the Get With The Guidelines® Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Additionally, Rehabilitation Institute of Northwest Florida, our off-campus inpatient rehabilitation center, is recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International as a Specialty Stroke Program.

Stroke symptoms

As more passes between the onset of stroke symptoms and medical treatment, more brain cells are lost. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of a stroke, so emergency intervention can begin quickly.

The signs of a stroke may include:

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs—especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking

If you identify any of these symptoms, don't wait. Call 911 immediately.

What not to do when you identify stroke symptoms

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke, it is important to remember the following:

  • Do not lie down, and do not wait to see if you begin to feel better.
  • Do not wait for someone to drive you to the hospital.
  • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
  • Do not ignore the symptoms.

Testing for stroke symptoms

Try these simple tests to see if a person may be experiencing a stroke:

  • Facial droop—Have the person smile or show their teeth and look for asymmetry.
    • Normal—Both sides of the person's face move equally and together.
    • Abnormal—One side of the person's face droops.
  • Motor weakness—To assess arm drift, have the person close their eyes and extend their arms with palms up.
    • Normal—Both arms remain extended equally, drifting equally or not moving at all.
    • Abnormal—One arm drifts down when compared to the other.
  • Speech—Have the person repeat a simple phrase.
    • Normal—They repeat the phrase clearly and correctly.
    • Abnormal—Their words are slurred or abnormal, or they are unable to repeat the phrase at all.

If you identify abnormal symptoms, try to assess the last time the person was known to not be experiencing any symptoms.

Primary Stroke Center

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center has earned the Gold Seal of Approval® from The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center.

As a Primary Stroke Center, our hospital follows treatment standards that are based on clinical practice guidelines.

These guidelines include:

  • Acute stroke team—Our hospital maintains a dedicated stroke team, which includes specialty physicians available 24/7 to evaluate patients with potential stroke symptoms.
  • Written care protocols—We follow written procedures to streamline and speed up stroke diagnosis, so we can administer treatment as soon as possible.
  • Emergency medical services (EMS)—Our staff work with local EMS to identify stroke symptoms in the field, begin baseline treatment and facilitate rapid transport to the emergency room (ER).
  • Stroke care team—Our entire hospital staff works together to provide seamless, quality care to every patient who has experienced a stroke and their family. The team includes doctors, nurses, case managers, therapists, diagnostic technicians, dietitians, educators and our stroke coordinator.
  • Inpatient stroke education—We provide education to patients and their families following hospital admission for a stroke. The goal is to provide education about related signs, symptoms, risk factors and ways to reduce associated risk factors.
  • Neurology services—Our neurologists focus on treating patients with a range of neurological conditions, including patients who have experienced a stroke.
  • Neurosurgical services—Our hospital has neurosurgeons on-site who specialize in the surgical treatment of conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.
  • Support of medical organization—Our administration and professional and nonprofessional staff are committed to providing high-quality care to patients who have experienced a stroke.
  • Neuroimaging—Imaging of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system is performed with the capability of delivering results within 45 minutes.
  • Laboratory services—We offer around-the-clock laboratory services at our hospital, so results are delivered swiftly and accurately.
  • Quality improvement—We track our patient outcomes, including how many stroke patients we've treated, the treatment provided and the type of stroke experienced.
  • Professional education—Our staff participates in medical training for continuing professional development. This ensures our team remains up to date on leading-edge treatments for stroke.
  • Community education—We make an effort for ongoing public education regarding the common signs and symptoms associated with stroke. We also educate the community on stroke risk factors, prevention and treatment options.
For more information about our stroke care services, please call our Consult-A-Nurse® team at (850) 864-0213.

Stroke rehabilitation

Depending on the severity and type of stroke a patient has experienced, rehabilitation may be needed to aid in the recovery process.

Rehabilitation does not reverse any brain damage caused by a stroke. However, it can substantially help achieve the best possible outcome for long-term recovery—especially for active adults.

Rehabilitation Institute of Northwest Florida, a campus of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in Destin, Florida, offers the Active Adult Stroke Program. This program provides inpatient rehabilitation services to patients who have experienced a stroke.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Northwest Florida is the Tri-County’s only facility recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International as a Stroke Specialty Program.

We also offer outpatient rehabilitation services.

Stroke rehabilitation services

The Active Adult Stroke Program provides patients access to a range of therapies and advanced technologies to aid in recovery, including:

  • Body weight supported exercise equipment
  • Family and caregiver training
  • Fully equipped kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry environments for therapy training
  • Neuromuscular retraining
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • One-on-one therapy available with physical, occupational and speech therapists
  • Stroke prevention education
  • Vital stimulation therapies provided by a certified therapist
  • Vocational, family, financial and intimacy counseling

Stroke rehabilitation team

The Active Adult Stroke Program is led by a board-certified physician with expertise in stroke rehabilitation. They are supported by our stroke rehabilitation team, which includes:

  • Case managers
  • Medical director
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Nutrition counselors
  • Occupational therapists
  • Orthotic consultants
  • Physical therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Specially trained rehabilitation nurses
  • Spiritual counselors
  • Social services personnel

Stroke rehabilitation facility

The Active Adult Stroke Program offers patients an environment designed specifically to enhance the rehabilitation process.

Our 20-bed facility includes:

  • All private rooms
  • Designated computer for patient internet access
  • Emergency services available 24/7
  • Large communal spaces
  • Open visitation policy
  • Real-life home environments
  • Wi-Fi access for guests

Tours of our facility are available with no appointment necessary.

Stroke support group

Our hospital is proud to sponsor the Folks with Strokes support group. The group is open to any individual who has experienced a stroke, their family members and people who want to prevent a future stroke.

The group meets every other month starting in January. For more information, please call (850) 315-4245.

Stroke health risk assessment

There are many factors that may increase a person's risk for experiencing a stroke. Some risk factors are controllable, such as lifestyle habits, while others are uncontrollable, such as genetics.

Take the survey below to assess your stroke risk.

There are many factors that increase risk of stroke. Some are controllable, but others are genetic and can only be counter-acted with effort by you, and in collaboration with your physician. Take this brief survey to see how your stroke risk adds up.

Please select Yes or No for each question!

# Factor Answer
1. Age
2. Blood pressure
3. Cholesterol
4. Diet
5. Exercise
6. Smoking
7. Oral contraceptives
8. Drug or alcohol use
9. Diabetes
10. Atrial fibrillation
11. Cardiovascular disease
12. Prior heart attack,
stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack)
13. I have stroke in my family
14. Clotting disorders
15. Migraines
16. Over 65

Your Score is:

  • If your score is 0 - 3, great news! You’re doing well at controlling your risk for stroke. Remember, though, that a single “High Risk” factor can put you at two times higher risk for stroke. Regular visits to your healthcare provider are important to identify health considerations unique to you.
  • If your score is 4 - 13, your overall risk is moderate. An answer of “I don’t know” is a yellow flag. Finding out can mean the difference between optimal health and a potential red flag. Minor changes in your controllable risk factors, plus regular healthcare checkups, can put you on the right path.
  • If your score is 14 or more, your overall risk of stroke is relatively high. Any one of these risk factors is a red flag. Make an appointment with your doctor soon to discuss stroke prevention.

If you do not currently have a primary care provider, click here to find a physician.

As many as 80% of strokes are preventable.

Risk factors are cumulative, so reducing even one will lower your overall risk of having a stroke.