Mercy Stroke Center
Stroke Diagnosis and Treatment
Stroke is a medical emergency. Someone suffering from a stroke or presenting with stroke-like symptoms must get to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible. Time lost = brain lost. The longer it takes to begin medical intervention the more permanent brain damage is likely to occur.
The experienced team at the Mercy Stroke Center at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center includes physicians and dedicated stroke nurses who are specially trained to assess stroke symptoms, care for stroke patients, and answer your questions about strokes. When you are brought to the Mercy Stroke Center you will be asked a series of questions and will undergo an immediate medical examination to determine if you have had a stroke. Members of our multidisciplinary stroke team will ask:
- if you have had a stroke in the past
- when your stroke symptoms began
- if you have a family history of stroke
- what medications you are currently taking
Your Mercy doctor will immediately send you to get a CT scan and/or MRI. Those two tests can reveal what is happening in your brain,
confirm if you are having a stroke and if so, what type.
After undergoing a CT scan and/or MRI your Mercy Stroke Center doctor will likely order a series of further tests to learn what caused the stroke and if surgery is required to treat the stroke and/or to prevent another stroke from occurring. Those possible diagnostic tests can include:
- blood tests
- carotid doppler ultrasound
- carotid arteriography
- cerebral angiography/angiogram
- electrocardiogram (EKG)
- electroencephalography (EEG)
- magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA)
- transcranial doppler
The type of stroke you are experiencing will determine the immediate course of treatment that your Mercy Stroke team will pursue. Medical stroke guidelines are that if you have suffered an ischemic stroke and meet the criteria you may be given tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a drug that can break up blood clots that cause stroke. If tPA is administered within 3 hours of the beginning of a stroke it can greatly reduce the chance of death or severe disability. TIME IS KEY. If tPA is not given within 3 hours following the onset of stroke it will be ineffective.
You may be given aspirin, which has been proven to be the most effective treatment for preventing another ischemic stroke. (If you are given t-PA your aspirin dose will be started in 24 hrs.) Doctors may also administer Coumadin, Heparin, or Plavix (blood thinning medications).
Depending on the cause of your stroke your doctor may recommend a carotid endarterectomy
surgery to treat your stroke.
If you have a hemorrhagic stroke you are experiencing bleeding in the brain. Your Mercy Stroke team will focus treatment on controlling the bleeding and reducing pressure that has built up in the brain as a result of the bleeding.
When you are admitted for hemorrhagic stroke you may be given a number of drugs intravenously. Medications may include drugs to control your blood pressure, drugs to counteract any anti-clotting medications you may currently be taking (i.e. Coumadin or Plavix), and drugs to reduce spasms or seizures that may be triggered by the bleeding in your brain.
Once you are stabilized and the bleeding in your brain stops, you may require surgery to remove the blood and/or repair abnormal blood vessels that may have contributed to the stroke or could cause another future hemorrhagic stroke.