A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked (ischemic) or bleeds (hemorrhagic). Blood carrying oxygen can't get to the brain and brain cells start to die. Damaged areas of the brain can lead to loss of bodily functions, such as speech, arm movement and sight, can be impaired.

Brain damage can begin within minutes. Quick treatment can help limit damage to the brain and increase the chances of a full recovery.

Stroke Warning Signs

It is important to recognize if you or a loved one is having a stroke so you seek help immediately. An easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of stroke is to think FASST.

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does their face droop on one side?
  • Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift down?
  • Speech: Ask the person to talk. Are they mumbling or slurring?
  • Sight: Has the person experienced a sudden loss of vision?
  • Time: Every minute counts with stroke. Call 911 immediately.

Tests and Treatments for Stroke

Typically, a CT scan is the first test performed, during or after after a stroke. A CT scan will show whether the stroke was caused by a blocked artery or by a leaking or ruptured artery. About 80 percent of the time, a stroke is caused by a blocked artery.

For a stroke caused by a clot or blockage, doctors might use:

  • A clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), given through the patient’s vein. Tissue plasminogen activator needs to be used within three hours of having a stroke. That’s why it’s critical to identify a stroke and seek treatment right away.
  • Intra-arterial thrombolytics (IA) may be given as long as eight hours after the first stroke symptom. In this procedure, a catheter is guided through the patient’s leg to the site of the clot. The clot-dissolving medication is then delivered directly onto the clot.
  • Special procedures to reach the clot and remove or break it up

Treatment for a stroke caused by a leaking or ruptured artery includes:

  • Efforts to control bleeding, reduce pressure in the brain and stabilize vital signs, especially blood pressure
  • Surgery and non-surgical methods to repair the leak or rupture
  • Surgery to remove the blood that has built up inside the brain and to lower pressure inside the head

Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke is a major cause of serious, long-term disabilities, including:

  • Memory difficulties
  • Swallowing and language problems
  • Trouble with walking or balance
  • Difficulty with daily activities
  • Depression and emotional changes

Most of these problems will improve with time and rehabilitation, but starting a treatment program as soon as possible after a stroke is vital to your recovery.

Mercy stroke experts use a team approach focused on healing and helping you regain your independence. You’ll have access to a wide range of rehabilitation specialists, including:

  • Physicians specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation
  • Specialty nurses trained in the care of patients with brain injuries
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Speech and language specialists
  • Social workers

The Mercy team will be at your side to encourage and support you every step of the way. We are eager to see you recover as much as possible so you can get back to doing all the things you love.

Lowering Your Risk for Stroke


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