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Frequently Asked Questions About Stroke

What is a stroke?
What can I do to prevent stroke?
What are the warning signs of stroke?
What should I do if I suspect I’m having a stroke?
How is stroke treated?
What interventions can stroke patients receive at St. Anthony Hospital?
Is St. Anthony Hospital a Certified Stroke Center
Support Services and Resources

What is a stroke?
Stroke is a “brain attack” that occurs when blood vessels leading to a specific part of the brain burst (hemorrhagic stroke) or become blocked (ischemic stroke). This cuts off the supply of nutrients and oxygen to that part of the brain, which creates a disastrous domino effect, causing brain cells to begin to die.

  • Ischemic Stroke - caused by blockage of an artery. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for about 70 to 80 percent of strokes.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke - occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) - “mini stroke” or “warning stroke” that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage; for example, an obstruction (blood clot) occurs for a short time and tends to resolve itself.  TIAs may also result from a sudden drop of blood pressure.  TIAs are strong indicators of a possible major stroke.

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What can I do to prevent stroke?
Many factors contribute to an individual's predisposition to stroke. Uncontrollable factors include increasing age, gender, race and personal or family history of stroke. Factors that may be controllable include high blood pressure, diet, alcohol and drug use, exercise and smoking. Following are some of the things your physician may recommend you do to reduce your chance of having a stroke:

  • Control your high blood pressure. Blood pressure that is consistently higher than 140 over 90 is considered “high.” And high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke by four to six times. Most people can control their high blood pressure through diet, weight loss, exercise or medication.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking injures blood vessels, hastens the hardening of arteries, raises blood pressure, and puts extra strain on the heart. These combined effects double your chances of getting a stroke.
  • Lower your high cholesterol, lose excess weight, get enough exercise and moderate your drinking of alcohol. All of these strategies, when called for, will reduce your risk of stroke. By moderate drinking, most authorities recommend taking in less than three ounces of hard liquor or eight ounces of wine or 24 ounces of beer per day.
  • Take your medication. Your physician may provide you with other useful tools to aid stroke prevention, most notably medication. The medication may be for such things as lowering blood pressure. Many people stop taking their medication when they “start feeling better.” But many conditions that increase the risk of stroke, such as high blood pressure, have no noticeable symptoms.

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What are the warning signs of stroke? Stroke warning signs include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

Not all of these warning signs occur in every stroke. When symptoms of a stroke occur and then resolve on their own in a short period of time, a person has experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Although TIAs usually go away within minutes, they should be regarded as very serious. TIAs are major warning signs of an impending stroke. One out of every 10 major stroke victims had first experienced a warning TIA. The lag between a TIA and a major stroke may be hours, days or months. One-fifth of all strokes that follow a TIA occur within the month. Half occur within the same year.

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What should I do if I suspect I’m having a stroke?

If you recognize stroke warning signs, call 911 for immediate transport to a hospital utilizing the most current acute stroke interventions.

The sooner you seek medical attention, the better. New and emerging therapies show promise, but all must be started in the first few hours following symptom onset. Seeking urgent medical attention after experiencing a TIA may prevent a major stroke or reduce the severity of a stroke.

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How is stroke treated?

  • Ischemic stroke, which involves a blockage of blood flow to a portion of the brain, can be treated in some patients during the first three hours of an attack, using thrombolytic drugs such as Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), which destroys harmful blood clots. In addition, FDA-approved clinical trials are currently underway for neuroprotective drugs that have shown the ability to reduce the number of brain cells destroyed in a stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke, which involves the bursting of a blood vessel in or near the brain, is treated using different therapies. Many such strokes are the result of an aneurysm (a bulging blood vessel) that has burst. In the past, many of these high-risk aneurysms were inoperable. Advances in neuroradiology at St. Anthony Central Hopsital now make treatment possible.

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What interventions can stroke patients receive at St. Anthony Hospital?

Virtually all, including:

  • Rapid assessment and stabilization
  • CT angiogram (available in the ED; in most cases, within 30 minutes of arrival)
  • Intravenous thrombolysis according to National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke guidelines
  • Selective arterial thrombolysis and percutaneous hemorrhage control performed by an interventional neuroradiologist
  • Neurosurgical intervention including craniotomy and intracranial pressure monitoring
  • Endovascular and surgical care of the hemorrhagic stroke ruptured AVM or aneurysm immediately available
  • Ancillary services including Imaging, Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy
  • Acute Rehabilitation (Inpatient)
  • Outpatient Rehabilitation

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Is St. Anthony Hospital a certified stroke center?

St. Anthony Hospital received its stroke center certification from The Joint Commission. The clinical pathways, stroke order sets and Stroke Alert Response Team required for Joint Commission's approval have been developed and implemented.

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Support Services and Educational Resources

Stroke support groups allow stroke survivors and their families to exchange ideas and offer encouragement to each other. A list of local stroke support groups is available from the Rocky Mountain Stroke Association.

Easter Seals of Colorado provides services to children and adults with disabilities and other special needs, and support to their families.

American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association was established in 1998 to reduce the impact of stroke. The division’s web-based offerings include prevention and recovery information and resources.

National Stroke Association's mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke.

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