Clinical Specialties : Stroke Division

Stroke Patient Information

What is a Stroke?

A Stroke is a brain attack, which cuts off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. In the U.S., 5 million people are survivors yet stroke is the third leading cause of death, killing 160,000 people each year, and the leading cause of adult disability. Approximately 750,000 strokes occur each year; however 500,000 of those strokes can be prevented. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age.

There are two main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic stroke occurs when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits. Almost 85 percent of all strokes are ischemic.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 15 percent of all strokes, yet are responsible for more than30 percent of all stroke deaths.

2 million brain cells die every minute during stroke, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. Recognizing symptoms and acting fast to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities.

Risk Factors for a Stroke

  • Heart problems
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of stroke or coronary disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Studies suggest a link between chiropractic neck manipulations and an increased risk of stroke

Stroke Symptoms:

Few Americans know the symptoms of stroke. Learning them – and acting FAST when they occur – could save your life or the life of a loved one.
Common stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, 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

Stroke Diagnosis:

Your neurologist will perform a physical examination to determine if you’ve had a stroke. Your examination may include blood or urine tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), electroencephalogram (EEG) or imaging tests.

Stroke Treatment:

Early treatment can help minimize damage to brain tissue and improve the outcome. Treatment depends on whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic and on the underlying cause of the condition. The long-term goals of treatment include rehabilitation and prevention of additional strokes.

Treatment for ischemic stroke involves removing the blockage and restoring blood flow. Tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) is a medication that can break up blood clots and restore blood flow when administered within 3 hours of the event. A diuretic, may also be administered intravenously to reduce intracranial pressure during an ischemic stroke.

Antihypertensives may be used alone or in combination with diuretics to treat high blood pressure. Antiplatelet agents may be prescribed to reduce the risk for recurrent stroke. Antiplatelet medication that is taken orally, once a day, to help prevent the formation of blood clots is prescribed for patients with atherosclerosis who have had a recent stroke and can be used to prevent recurrence. Anticonvulsants may be prescribed for patients who experience recurrent seizures after a stroke. Anticoagulants may be prescribed to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Treatment of hemorrhagic stroke usually requires surgery to relieve intracranial (within the skull) pressure caused by bleeding. Most of the damage caused by this type of stroke results from the physical disruption of brain tissue.

Surgical treatment for hemorrhagic stroke caused by an aneurysm or defective blood vessel can prevent additional strokes. Surgery may be performed to seal off the defective blood vessel and redirect blood flow to other vessels that supply blood to the same region of the brain.

Endovascular treatment involves inserting a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a major artery, usually in the thigh, guiding it to the aneurysm or the defective blood vessel, and inserting tiny platinum coils (called stents) into the blood vessel through the catheter. Stents support the blood vessel to prevent further damage and additional strokes.

Recovery and rehabilitation are important aspects of stroke treatment. In some cases, undamaged areas of the brain may be able to perform functions that were lost when the stroke occurred.