A stroke is a brain injury that occurs when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted. Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue starts to die within minutes. Tissue loss in the brain causes a sudden loss of function, such as speech, movement, vision or any other capability affected by the dying cells. The longer the stroke continues, the more brain cells die.
That’s why immediate treatment of a stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack” is vital. Getting to a hospital where blood flow can be restored quickly may prevent disability or death.
Stroke symptoms include:
SUDDEN numbness or weakness of 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.
Not all of these warning signs occur in every stroke. If any symptoms occur, don't wait. Call 911.
Types of stroke:
About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic which occur when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes obstructed. Stroke can occur in two types of obstructions – cerebral thrombosis and cerebral embolism.
Cerebral Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot develops at the narrowed part of the vessel. It then obstructs the flow of blood to the brain tissue.
Cerebral Embolism occurs when a blood clot forms at another location in the circulatory system, usually the heart and large arteries of the upper chest and neck. A portion of the blood clot breaks loose, enters the bloodstream and travels through the brain’s blood vessels until it reaches vessels too small to let it pass. It then obstructs the flow of blood to the brain tissue.
About 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic which occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. Blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue.
Treating a stroke
An ischemic attack can be treated by a clot-busting drug called tPA injected intravenously. tPA can have dangerous effects, however, if injected more than three hours after the stroke’s onset. That window of time can be stretched to six hours if the hospital has on staff a rare type of physician, a neurointerventional radiologist, who can inject tPA directly into the clot via a catheter threated through the artery.
Surgical treatment is often necessary for a hemorrhagic stroke. Clips or coils are inserted at the site of the bleeding with the brain blood vessel to stop the flow of blood into the brain tissue.
Strokes are preventable. Except for advancing age, most risk factors can be controlled. Factors include high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, obesity and physical inactivity. A change in lifestyle can have a tremendous effect on preventing a stroke – and the tragic consequences that follow.
Wesley Medical Center is a Primary Stroke Center, certified by The Joint Commission, the national accreditation body for healthcare organizations. This means Wesley meets national standards that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients.
Many small or rural hospitals do not have a neurologist available to diagnose and treat stroke patients. Wesley Medical Center’s telemedicine program helps connect physicians and patients in these hospitals with a neurologist any time of the day or night.
The telemedicine program uses a mobile “robot,” which has an onboard computer, monitor, high-resolution camera and microphone. Within minutes, the local physician and patient can be communicating with an experienced neurologist who can view the patient’s symptoms and discuss them with the local physician and patient. Medical data, including imaging scans, can also be transmitted. The local physician and neurologist can then develop a treatment plan.
Talk to your doctor to learn more about stroke care and your risk of developing stroke. Call 316.962.DOCS to find a doctor who specializes in stroke care.