What You Need to Know About Stroke Treatment
By Parth Modi, MD, Neurologist—Virtua Neurosciences
A stroke is an emergency that requires medical attention. But, did you know there’s more than one type of stroke, and the one you have may determine your type of treatment?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, resulting in distinctive symptoms that affect one side of the body, such as sudden weakness in the face, arm, or leg; blurred vision; and slurred speech. However, a stroke can have more than one cause.
Nine out of 10 strokes are considered ischemic strokes. This type of stroke occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. Ischemic strokes are divided into two types—thrombotic and embolic.
A thrombotic stroke occurs when a clot blocks blood flow inside an artery within the brain or leading to it. An embolic stroke occurs when a clot forms somewhere else in the body, usually the heart. This clot can break away and travel through the blood vessels to the brain, causing a stroke.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol put you at increased risk of plaque build-up and blood clots in your arteries.
A hemorrhagic stroke, or intracerebral hemorrhage, occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. The hemorrhage puts too much pressure on brain cells, damaging them.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure and an aneurysm—a weak spot in a blood vessel that may bulge and swell—are the leading causes of hemorrhagic strokes.
Advanced procedures to treat your stroke
Unfortunately, people having a stroke don’t always treat it as an emergency and think the symptoms may simply go away on their own.
It’s important to understand that a stroke requires immediate medical attention. The faster we can determine the type of stroke you’re having and restore blood flow, the better chance we have of preventing significant brain damage.
The Penn Medicine Virtua Health neurovascular team uses state-of-the-art techniques to minimize stroke damage. For an ischemic stroke, this includes:
- Clot-busting drugs: Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), given three to four hours from the start of stroke symptoms, can dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain.
- Thrombectomy: A wire-cage stent attached to a catheter is threaded through an artery in the groin up to the blocked vessel in the brain. The stent opens, grabs the clot, and removes it. This and other endovascular procedures are performed at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
- Carotid endarterectomy: Plaque in the carotid artery is removed through a surgical incision. Another option is a carotid angioplasty, which opens the clogged artery using a special balloon and stent.
For a hemorrhagic stroke, treatments include:
- Surgical clipping: A tiny clamp at the base of the aneurysm stops it from bursting or continuing to bleed.
- Endovascular embolization: Coils delivered through a catheter to the brain fill the aneurysm and stop the bleeding.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: Highly focused radiation repairs blood vessel malformations.
Time is of the essence when treating stroke. So learn to recognize the symptoms and don’t delay calling 911 if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke.
The Penn Medicine Virtua Health Neurosciences Program provides advanced, high-quality neurologic care close to come. Call 888-847-8823 to schedule a consultation.
Updated January 4, 2021