When the blood supply to part of a patient’s brain in cut off or reduced significantly, depriving the brain of oxygen and food, a stroke can occur.  A stroke is a major medical emergency and rapid treatment is critical.  Early treatment can minimize brain damage and subsequent complications in the patient.

Strokes can be treated and prevented.  Common causes are high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol.  Improvements made in decreasing these causes have decreased the mortality rate for stroke victims.

These are the common signs of a stroke:

  • Trouble walking – sudden loss of balance, coordination, stumbling or dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking or being understood or understanding others – confusion and slurring are early signs; difficulty in “finding the words” or repeating simple sentences are often signs of a stroke
  • Numbness or paralysis on one side of the body or face
  • Blurred vision, double vision or blindness
  • Headache

It cannot be stated frequently enough that immediate medical attention when any of the above signs are noticed, even if they come and go.  Every minute counts for a stroke victim.

Two types of strokes are categorized by the physicological cause:

  • Ischemic stroke is the result of the blockage of an artery
  • Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks or bursts
  • TIA (transient ischemic attach) or a “ministroke” is a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain

Stroke treatments include surgery, medications, hospitalization and rehabilitation.

Surgical treatments include carotid endarterectomy – removal of accumulated plaque in the carotid artery in the neck; cerebral angioplasty – use of balloons, stents and coils to treat the brain’s blood vessels. 

Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) has vastly improved the prognosis for stroke victims when treated quickly and properly.  TPA is a clot-dissolving drug that is used when the stroke cause is determined to be a blood clot.  Obviously it is ciritical to determine quickly the type of stroke so tPA can be used promptly and appropriately when indicated. 

The prognosis for the victim of a stroke depends entirely on the amount of damage caused by the lack of bloodflow and oxygen to the brain.