What is a Stroke?

Stroke is damage to the brain, spinal cord, or retina due to a disturbance in blood flow. More than 700,000 strokes occur per year in the United States and make up more than half of all hospital admissions for neurologic disease. Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability and is consistently one of the leading causes of death in our country. Billions of dollars are spent yearly caring directly for the care of stroke patients. Many of those who suffer stroke are also unable to return to work leading to enormous indirect costs and lost wages.

Identifying stroke symptoms and acting quickly to be evaluated by emergency medical personnel is the first step in the treatment of any type of stroke. Calling 911 is a must and has been shown to reduce the time it takes for the stroke patient to receive life saving treatment.

Next, emergency staff will need to determine if a stroke is occurring and if so which major type of stroke is present. Primary stroke centers have been created in many hospitals, which consist of acute stroke teams, which are present 24/7 in order to work with emergency staff to help treat stroke patients.

Non-bleeding strokes are often due to arteries suddenly closing and subsequently being unable to carry oxygenated blood cells to that part of the brain, spinal cord, or retina. Arteries becoming narrow with plaque development over many years due to the effects of high blood pressure or diabetes can cause this. A common place that plaque can form is in the carotid arteries found in the neck. Narrow carotid arteries are associated with increased stroke risk. Ischemic strokes can also be caused by blood clots forming in organs such as the heart, which can then travel to the nervous system and obstruct blood flow causing damage.

Bleeding strokes are associated with arteries which rupture and cause damage. High blood pressure is one risk factor associated with bleeding strokes. Arteries can also enlarge and balloon in size forming aneurysms, which can rupture, and cause bleeding in the subarachnoid layer around the brain. Identifying brain aneurysms prior to their rupture can prevent subarachnoid hemorrhages.

There are two major types of stroke. Non-bleeding strokes are the most common type of strokes. These are also called ischemic strokes. Bleeding or hemorrhagic strokes are less common and are often associated with the rupture of an artery.

Hospital Stay After a Stroke

This answer varies on the type and severity of stroke. Generally, stroke patients can expect a 2-3 day hospital stay to allow initial treatment and investigation of stroke to occur. Patients will often leave the hospital with new medications to help prevent stroke. Following this, factors, which determine when a stroke patient may return home, include what form of rehabilitation are needed and how much assistance they will need. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy are forms of therapy used to help treat stroke patients. Many stroke patients require temporary inpatient hospital rehabilitation or transition to a nursing facility that has supportive therapies.

Resolution of Stroke Symptoms

Depending on the severity and location of one’s stroke recovery of symptoms will vary. There are types of stroke that are associated with very good outcome. It is important to realize that the recovery process is often gradual with the greatest improvement seen in the first 6 months following a stroke. Following up with your doctor and specialists will be important in helping to further prevent stroke and obtaining further assistance to aide in recovery.

What Causes a Stroke?

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