Each year more than 800,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States. It is the 5th leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability. Of these 800,000 people, about 185,000 of them will die from their stroke and many will be left with permanent disabilities.
There are 2 major types of strokes: hemorrhagic and ischemic. Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 15 % of stroke, while the other 85% involve ischemic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when there is bleeding into the brain, while ischemic strokes happen from a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes often occur from an aneurysm, while blood clots are largely responsible for ischemic strokes.
Some patients experience what is called TIA’s or transient ischemic attacks that are mild and last less than 24 hours. They are mini-strokes that are a critical warning to patients to seek medical attention before they suffer a stroke.
A stroke is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention. The faster that medical help is sought, the better the outcome for the patient.
When a patient gets to the hospital, the emergency room staff will immediately assess the patient to determine if the stroke is caused by bleeding or due to a blood clot. If it is from a blood clot, tPA or tissue plasminogen activator is often administered. This can dissolve a blood clot and allow blood flow back to the brain. The patient may also undergo a medical procedure (endovascular thrombectomy) to remove the blood clot to prevent further damage to the brain.
Causes of stroke:
Bleeding strokes are often caused by an aneurysm or weakened blood vessel in the brain.
Ischemic strokes can be caused by uncontrolled blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Diabetics also have an increased risk for stroke. Smoking cigarettes double a person’s risk for stroke. This type of stroke can also be caused by a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body, often the heart in patients who have atrial fibrillation (a-fib).
A stroke can occur in different areas of the brain. A stroke on the left side of the body can cause the right side to be paralyzed and one on the right causes issues on a patient’s left side. Following a stroke, a patient can make a recovery, with most recovery happening in the 3-4 months after the stroke. Some patients will be fortunate and make a good recovery, while others will remain permanently disabled.
Calling 911 or getting to the hospital as quickly as possible is the best chance that someone will be fortunate and recover quickly from a stroke. Never delay getting help if stroke is suspected.