Published on September 24, 2020

Man in hospital bed.

Fast action saves lives and reduces disability from stroke

A stroke is a brain attack. Strokes are a leading cause of serious, long-term disability and death. Signs of stroke may include facial numbness or drooping; arm or leg weakness; speech, vision and balance difficulties; confusion; and severe headache.

Emergency treatments for acute stroke are designed to rid the body of the blockage that caused the stroke, save brain cells and allow the patient to regain function. The patient’s health and safety are the highest priority in determining treatment options. Advanced diagnostics are essential in determining the appropriate treatment for the patient, and fast action is critical.

A patient arriving at an emergency department suffering from an acute stroke will receive an immediate clinical evaluation, a CT scan and, potentially, intravenous clot-busting medicine. CT angiography and CT perfusion imaging are used to map the location of the blockage and determine how much brain tissue can be rescued. RAPID CT perfusion software allows for a high level of accuracy and speed in image interpretation.

Medical treatments after an acute stroke may include an intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and an interventional catheterization procedure that removes the blockage.

Administered through an IV, tPA travels to the brain and begins to break up the blood clot and restore blood flow. If administered quickly after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and the chance for permanent disability.

Mechanical thrombectomy is a minimally invasive endovascular surgery. The doctor guides a catheter to the blood clot that is causing the stroke, then uses retrieval devices to remove the clot from the blood vessel to restore blood flow and oxygenation to the brain.

Whether tPA is administered or a thrombectomy is performed, timing is of the essence. A well-orchestrated team of medical professionals works together to assure that the best treatment is provided to the patient as quickly as possible and that treatment also includes excellent post-acute care, and oftentimes rehabilitation.

If you are concerned about the potential for a stroke, talk to your health care provider. A vascular screening may be recommended.