Stroke treatment requires fast action: to be effective, it must be started within a few hours of when symptoms start. It's critical that you know the symptoms of stroke and get immediate medical attention when they occur.
Today, stroke treatment can involve clot-busting medications, surgery, or other procedures.
Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) works by breaking up blood clots. 80% of patients with ischemic stroke have a blood clot blocking a major brain artery. By breaking up a clot, tPA can prevent or reduce the amount of permanent brain injury.
As brain damage occurs very quickly during a stroke, tPA must be used within about 3 hours of the start of symptoms. Some studies have shown tPA to be effective up to 4½ hours after symptoms start, and your doctor may still give you tPA within this time frame.
Unfortunately, tPA can't be given as soon as a patient is admitted to hospital because a brain scan must be carried out to see if the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic (bleeding). tPA cannot be used for hemorrhagic stroke. It may take an hour for a doctor to evaluate a patient with stroke before tPA therapy is started. Many hospitals now have rapid response teams to carry out quick assessment of stroke patients.
You may also be given acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or clopidogrel after you have imaging tests and the doctors know you are not having a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.
You may need surgery to repair damage from a stroke or to prevent a stroke. You may also have a thin flexible wire inserted in an artery to remove plaque or to treat an aneurysm (a weak area in the wall of a blood vessel that bulges).
After the immediate management of a stroke, further treatment involves rehabilitation and preventing another stroke.
Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team
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