Every year on average in the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and about every 3.5 minutes someone dies from a stroke. The effects of a stroke can be devastating for both the individual and their family. In fact, stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disabilities. Time lost is brain lost, so it's important to call 911 immediately if someone is showing signs of a stroke.
Stroke Symptoms & Warning Signs
Know the warning signs of a stroke and remember the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T.
- Balance lost - sudden loss of balance, coordination or dizziness
- Eyesight changes - sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Face drooping - one side of the face is drooping or looks uneven
- Arm weakness - sudden arm or leg weakness or numbness
- Speech difficulty - speech is slurred or mumbled
- Time to call 911 - time to call 911 immediately if you see any of these symptoms
Stroke Risk Factors
Anyone over the age of 60, plus people with these stroke risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Family history of atherosclerotic problems and circulatory problems
Stroke Treatments & Recovery
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.
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.