Identifying and Understanding Stroke
Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. is having stroke. Fortunately, 80% of strokes—or the disabilities they may cause—can be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment, as well as healthy lifestyle changes.
Knowing the signs and symptoms—and getting the best specialized care—is critical. Cedars-Sinai, a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center by the American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, and The Joint Commission, meets the exacting standards for treating the most complex stroke cases, including advanced imaging techniques and 24/7 availability of stroke care personnel and facilities. Learn more about how to prevent, control and recognize strokes.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or disrupted, preventing it from working properly. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to work well. A stoke is considered a medical emergency because brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen and brain function is lost.
There are 2 main types of stroke:
- Ischemic: When a blood clot blocks a major vessel in the brain (this is the most common type, occurring in more than 80% of patients).
- Hemorrhagic: When a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into nearby tissues.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when a temporary clot causes a “mini-stroke.” Unlike a stroke, a TIA doesn’t damage brain cells or cause permanent disability, but it’s a warning sign that you might be at risk for a stroke.
A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Understanding the signs and symptoms and acting quickly can prevent long-term complications.
Am I Having a Stroke?
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of a stroke, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Remember the acronym F.A.S.T to quickly and easily help you recognize symptoms of stroke and get the help you need as soon as possible
- F - Face drooping. One side of the face is drooping or numb. When the person smiles, the smile is uneven.
- A - Arm weakness. One arm is weak or numb. When the person lifts both arms at the same time, one arm may drift downward.
- S - Speech difficulty. You may notice slurred speech or difficulty speaking. The person may not be able to repeat back a simple sentence.
- T - Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. Call even if the symptom goes away. Make note of the time the symptoms first appeared.
How Is Stroke Treated?
When a stroke patient arrives at Cedars-Sinai, a "Code Brain" is called and they’re sent directly to the Emergency Department. Once there, a highly coordinated, rapid-response team of neurologists, neuroradiologists and other experts works quickly to make a diagnosis using a combination of physical exam, blood work, and diagnostic imaging such as CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound and get them into treatment as quickly as possible. At the same time, stroke coordinators gather the patient's medical history and other health information from family members or paramedics.
Treatment path will depend on the type of stroke, but the quicker a diagnosis is made and treatment provided the greater chance of recovery.
While there's no cure for a stroke after it's happened, advanced medical and surgical treatments given during the event can reduce your odds of a recurrence. They include:
- Clot-busting medicines (thrombolytics or fibrinolytics): These medicines are used for an ischemic stroke (caused by a blockage). They help reduce damage to brain cells by dissolving blood clots. For best results, they must be given within 3 hours of a stroke's onset.
- Medicines and therapy to control brain swelling: Special types of IV (intravenous) fluids are used to help reduce or control brain swelling after a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain).
- Neuroprotective medicines: These medicines are used to protect the brain from damage and lack of oxygen.
- Life-support measures: These treatments can include using a machine to help you breathe (a ventilator), having IV fluids, getting proper nutrition and controlling your blood pressure.
- Craniotomy: This is a type of brain surgery that removes blood clots, relieves pressure or repairs bleeding in the brain.
Treatment paths for stroke are highly individualized.
Getting back to "normal" after a stroke can take time and patience. Learn about the recovery process and find out about lifestyle changes you can make to prevent a recurrence.