Stroke & TIA Treatment at Tenet Health
What Causes a Stroke?
A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Deprived of oxygen, brain cells in the affected part of the brain begin to die. A stroke causes both immediate effects and long-term damage to the brain.
Ischemic strokes, caused by blood clots, make up more than three-quarters of all strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by broken blood vessels, where blood wells up in the vessels and damages surrounding brain cells.
While no one can predict when a stroke will happen, there are known risk factors. Older age, gender (women are at higher risk) female sex and family history are a few factors that can’t be controlled or managed. Other risk factors are things that can change, or manage:
- Lifestyle factors, including diets high in cholesterol and salt, excessive alcohol consumption, inactivity, overeating and smoking
- Medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, previous strokes or transient ischemic attacks and sickle cell disease
What Are the Symptoms of Stroke?
When someone has a stroke, symptoms may include:
- Acute headache
- Balance problems, dizziness or falling
- Numbness or difficulty moving one side of the body
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems
A quick stroke test is known as the F.A.S.T. test.
- FACE: Does their face droop on one side?
- ARM: Does one arm drift down when they hold their arms up?
- SPEECH: Is their speech difficult to understand?
- TIME: Call 911 quickly, because time is of essence in getting treatment.
How Does a TIA Differ from a Stroke?
A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is like a brief stroke. For a few minutes, blood doesn’t reach part of the brain. The risk factors and symptoms of TIA resemble those of a stroke, and some people who have TIAs go on to have a full-blown stroke. Since it can’t be determined whether someone is having a TIA or a stroke if they show symptoms, it’s important to always call 911 at the moment symptoms appear.
Diagnosing a Stroke and TIA
A doctor may order tests to confirm a stroke or TIA. These tests may include:
- Blood work
- Carotid ultrasound
- Cerebral angiography
Stroke Treatments at Tenet Health
If treated promptly, many strokes can be halted by a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, a drug which dissolves clots. If that approach is not possible, a stroke specialist can perform a mechanical thrombectomy to thread a catheter into the blocked artery and remove the clot. For hemorrhagic stroke, doctors will attempt to control the bleeding and reinforce the damaged vessel.
Long-term treatment for stroke may include anticoagulant medicine to limit future clots, treatment for conditions — such as high blood pressure — that led to the stroke and rehabilitation to help patients regain capabilities lost during the stroke.