Stroke

Symptoms & Warning Signs

Don't neglect these warning signs of a stroke.

Every second counts!

  • 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

Use the FAST test to check if you are having a stroke.

  • (F)ACE. Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
  • (A)RMS. Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one arm drifts downward.
  • (S)PEECH. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check to see if words are slurred and if the sentence is repeated correctly.
  • (T)IME. If a person shows any of these symptoms, time is essential. It is important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. 

Call 911 right away so an ambulance with advanced life support equipment can be sent.

Risk Factors

Anyone over the age of 60, plus people with these risk factors for a stroke:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood prevssure
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Family history of atherosclerotic problems and circulatory problems

Treatments

Until recently, the treatment of stroke was restricted to basic life support at the time of the stroke and then stroke rehabilitation later. Now, however, treatments can be beneficial when administered as soon as possible after the onset of the stroke. It is critical to get to the hospital and be diagnosed as soon as possible. There are several steps in the initial assessment and management of a person with a stroke.

Receiving treatment early is essential in reducing the damage from a stroke. The chances for survival and recovery are also best if treatment is received at a hospital specifically certified as a primary stroke center, like Iowa Methodist Medical Center.

Treatment of Ischemic Stroke

Immediate treatment of ischemic stroke aims at dissolving the blood clot. Patients who arrive at the emergency room with signs of acute ischemic stroke are usually given aspirin to help thin the blood. Aspirin can be lethal for patients suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, so it is best not to take aspirin at home and to wait until after the doctor has determined what kind of stroke has occurred.

If patients arrive at the hospital within 3 - 4 hours of stroke onset (when symptoms first appear), they may be candidates for thrombolytic ("clot-buster") drug therapy. Thrombolytic drugs are used break up existing blood clots. The standard thrombolytic drugs are tissue plasminogen activators (t-PAs). They include alteplase (Activase) and reteplase (Retavase).

Treatment of Hemorrhagic Stroke

Treatment of hemorrhagic stroke depends in part on whether the stroke is caused by bleeding between the brain and the skull (subarachnoid hemorrhage) or within the brain tissue (intracerebral hemorrhage). Both medications and surgery may be used.

Surgery may be performed for aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations that are bleeding. The surgery may be done through a craniotomy, which involves making an opening in the skull bone.

Less invasive techniques can be done by threading a catheter. A catheter is guided through a small cut in the groin to an artery and then to the small blood vessels in the brain where the aneurysm is located. Thin metal wires are put into the aneurysm. They then coil up into a mesh ball. Blood clots that form around this coil prevent the aneurysm from breaking open and bleeding. If the aneurysm has ruptured, a clip may be placed on it to prevent further leaking of blood into the brain.