What to expect as you recover from a stroke
There are many misconceptions about strokes. The National Stroke Association states that treatment and recovery is more promising than ever. The key to the best possible outcome is acting as soon as stroke symptoms develop. Many hospitals will not consider a stroke patient eligible for treatment if the stroke symptoms began more than three hours prior to arrival at the emergency room.
Ischemic stroke treatment. Ischemic strokes are treated by restoring blood flow to the brain as quickly as possible.
- Medication — Several medications can treat ischemic strokes. It is important that therapy with these drugs begins as soon as possible, preferably within the 4.5-hour window. Types of medication include aspirin, other blood thinners such as warfarin or clopidogrel, or intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA).
- Procedures — Another option to stroke treatment is swift emergency medical procedures. Possible procedures are TPA released directly to the brain via catheter or clot removal by a tiny device that can grab and remove the clot. Cartoid endarterectomy may be recommended to remove plaques blocking the carotid artery. Angioplasty is another procedure that widens the narrowing artery with a balloon-tipped catheter. Sometimes stents or tiny mesh tubes are placed in the artery to keep it open wide.
Hemorrhagic stroke treatment. Treatment for hemorrhagic strokes involves stopping the bleeding and releasing built-up brain pressure.
- Medication — Stopping the bleeding is priority number one in hemorrhagic strokes. Medication to reverse blood-thinning effects of warfarin or other antiplatelet drugs may be given if necessary. Transfusions with special blood products are also an option doctors may choose. Additional medication will be given if needed to lower blood pressure, decrease vasospasms and preclude seizures.
- Procedures — Various procedures to repair blood vessels damaged by the stoke may be performed. A permanent clip may be placed at the start of the aneurysm to prevent bursting or bleeding. Embolization or coiling the damaged blood vessel is an alternative to clipping. A coil is placed at the site of the bleed in order to encourage an artery sealing blood clot. Surgical removal of the ruptured artery may be performed if possible.
Treatment and rehabilitation. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment and rehabilitation start as soon as the stroke is managed. Rehabilitation to regain function and strength that may have been lost will begin. Stroke treatment will be customized to the area of damage and corresponding functions affected. Vital functions such as swallowing, breathing, hearing, balancing, vision, or bladder and bowel control may have been impacted by the stroke. Every person, every stroke, and every treatment and recovery will be different.