“I woke up and couldn’t move the right side of my body… I tried to call out but couldn’t speak…”
Almost 800,000 people in the US have a stroke each year. This means about every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke, and every 4 minutes someone dies of stroke.
However, in the past decade major advances in medicine and surgery have substantially decreased the rates of death and permanent disability, bringing hope to those suffering from this disease.
“His face looked different, there were no lines on the right, and I didn’t know what was happening…”
The most critical piece to surviving stroke is the quick recognition of stroke and activation of emergency medical services. Usually, stroke causes a sudden onset loss of function in movement, sensation, speech, or vision. In some cases, bleeding strokes can cause a sudden onset, severe headache. Remember to BE FAST –
Sudden loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, persistent blurred or double vision, or other vision trouble.
Sudden numbness or weakness in the face or an uneven smile.
Sudden numbness or weakness in arm or leg, usually on one side of the body.
Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding.
Time = Brain
If these symptoms occur suddenly, or are accompanied by sudden, severe dizziness or the worst headache of your life, call 9-1-1.
“In the ED, they evaluated the patient immediately and told me they can give a clot busting medication to help…”
As noted above, the quicker that one recognizes the symptoms of stroke and contacts 9-1-1, the sooner we can evaluate and treat a stroke.
When a patient arrives in the emergency department, we will ensure that they are stable. After breathing and heart function are confirmed, we will obtain computed tomography studies (CAT Scans) to look for any bleeding in the brain, or blockage of the brain’s blood vessels.
Ischemic Stroke – Blood Vessel Blockage
- When a blood vessel is blocked, oxygen and nutrients aren’t delivered to the brain
- Without oxygen and nutrients, the brain becomes stunned and ceases to function
- If blood flow fails to be restored, the brain tissue will be irrevocably killed
If a patient with Ischemic Stroke arrives and is diagnosed within 4 ½ hours, the American Stroke Association recommends giving a medication known as alteplase, or more commonly “tPA”. This medication can circulate and breakup blood clots, restoring blood flow.
In some cases, if a larger blood vessel is blocked in the brain or carotid artery, the patient can undergo an immediate surgical procedure known as “Neurointervention”. This procedure involves the use of tiny catheters to remove the blockage from inside the blood vessels, as well as placing stents or using balloons to open up closed off vessels.
Hemorrhagic Stroke – Blood Vessel Rupture
- Damage to blood vessels, or malformations in blood vessels can result in the vessel cracking
- Bleeding into the brain can cause swelling and damage to the brain, and damage to other blood vessels
- If not treated quickly, continued bleeding can cause pressure to build up inside the skull which can be fatal
Once a patient with hemorrhagic stroke has been diagnosed, they must be started on medications to aggressively control blood pressure. If any blood thinner medications like Eliquis (apixaban), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), or Coumadin (warfarin) are used, antidote medications can be given to stop the bleeding.
In some cases, if bleeding is significant enough, surgical procedures such as placement of a drain, or decompression of the bleeding may be necessary to prevent further injury from occurring.
“I have always been athletic, and was in great shape, but didn’t have a clue how high my blood pressure was…”
While there is a chance that anyone could have a stroke, our goal is help to reduce your risk to that of the general population. Many factors can increase your risk of having a stroke; some which you cannot control …
- Increasing age
- Male gender
- Family History / Genetics
- Certain diseases (atrial fibrillation, cancer, autoimmune conditions)
… but many more factors that you can directly control, not only to reduce your risk of stroke, but improve your overall health!
- Tobacco Abuse (Cigar, Cigarettes, Vaping, and Dip)
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Sleep Apnea
- Excessive Alcohol Abuse
- Drug Abuse (including Cocaine, Heroin / Opiates, PCP)
- Medication Non-compliance
The best way to treat a stroke is never to have a stroke, so if you have one or many of these disorders, contact our team who can begin a personalized treatment plan reducing your risk of ever facing this disease.
Caring for Stroke
“I was afraid I’d ever be able to walk again; to care for my family, to not be a burden…”
Our involvement in your care does not end in the hospital. Most patients who suffer from either type of stroke may benefit from rehabilitation. In order to best facilitate your recovery, your rehab team will customize a therapy plan to your individual recovery needs. This plan will focus on helping you regain function lost from your stroke; thus, restoring your independence, and highest quality of life.
Rehab helps you regain strength, relearn skills, or find new ways of doing the things you did before your stroke. Each individual stroke is different, so each person’s recovery will be different. Your rehab team will include you and your family along with speech, physical, and occupational therapists, physicians, nurses, social workers, and case managers. This multidisciplinary team will work with you every step of the way, facilitating a safe recovery process.
On-Site Rehabilitation Care
West Jefferson Rehab Care is a 24-bed inpatient, comprehensive, rehabilitation facility located on the 4th floor of West Jefferson Medical Center. In addition to providing experts in all disciplines of rehabilitation, patients have access to stroke experts, imaging resources, and therapies.
Additionally, our outpatient rehab program at Rehab Connection provides outpatient rehabilitation services for those patients who do not require inpatient therapy but will benefit from additional therapy after their inpatient care has concluded.
Your Care Team
Ina Dragicevic, BSN, RN, SCRN
Stroke Patient Navigator
Alyana Samai, MPH