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What Happens After a Stroke?

Once you’ve been admitted to SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, your physician will order additional diagnostic tests to evaluate your brain’s activity, specifically the extent of your injury and how the blood supply to your brain has been affected. These diagnostic tests may include:

CT scan: a key imaging test of the brain. This is usually one of the first tests given to a patient with a stroke. CT scans provide valuable information about the cause of the stroke and the location and extent of the brain injury.

MRI: shows the location and extent of the injury, but provides a much sharper and detailed picture. MRIs are often used to diagnose small, more in-depth injuries.

Your brain controls how you move, feel, think and behave. Brain injury from a stroke can affect any of these abilities. By identifying the affected area of the brain, your medical team will know what symptoms to expect and can plan your treatment accordingly.

Stroke Treatment Protocols

Food & Drink

Initially, we do not providing any food or drink by mouth until a swallow reflex can be tested by your nurse. This is a simple test done using a small amount of water. Pneumonia is a major risk factor for stroke patients early on, especially if they are having swallowing difficulties. If the simple swallow test indicates a problem, we will prohibit any food by mouth, including oral medications. From there, a speech therapist will conduct a more comprehensive swallow assessment.

Blood Thinning Medication

If it is determined that your stroke was due to plaque or a blood clot in the arteries, you will be started on anticoagulation therapy. These are medicines that delay clotting of the blood, help prevent clots from forming and existing clots from enlarging. There is specific education about these medications that you will receive from your caregivers. It’s extremely important to follow these directions closely.

Blood Pressure Control

Blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke and stroke reoccurrence. Our nursing staff will monitor your blood pressure closely, and new medications may be used to help maintain desired levels.

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy is used to help assess any swallowing disorders or language deficits caused by your brain injury.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps our team to assess any physical deficits you may have suffered from the stroke. Your medical provider can then develop a plan of care to maximize your mobility and independence for activities such as walking, balance and coordination.

Occupational Therapy

This helps assess any other deficits you may have so your medical provider can develop a plan of care to maximize your return to independence.

Stroke Recovery

Following a stroke, you will soon begin recovering your abilities. Some improvements may occur spontaneously. This relates to how the brain works again after it is injured. Many patients will benefit from a stroke rehabilitation program. These programs not only help to improve your abilities but also teach you compensation strategies and coping techniques.

Keep in mind that depress is not uncommon after a stroke. This can be a huge interference to your recovery. It’s important to treat any symptoms you may have associated with depression. Emotional ability or “reflex crying” can occur due to biological changes in the brain, but these symptoms are different from depression. For example, you may cry or laugh, even though the reaction doesn’t match your mood. This may continue longer than expected.

You’ll see some of your greatest improvement within the first months after your stroke. This will continue over the coming years with effort and perseverance.

Discharge & Rehabilitation

Fatigue is a common problem after stroke, but it generally resolves itself after a few months. As a stroke survivor, you may have less energy due to difficulty sleeping, lack of exercise, poor nutrition or the side effects of medications. On the other hand, you may have the same amount of energy, but you may be using it differently. Some daily activities may take more effort that before.

The rehabilitation process primarily focuses on improving independence. Some key activities include:

  • Activities of daily living such as eating, bathing and dressing
  • Mobility skills such as transferring, walking or self-propelling a wheelchair
  • Communication skills in speech and language
  • Cognitive skills such as memory or problem solving
  • Socialization skills
  • Psychological functioning to improve coping skills and treatment to overcome depression, if needed

Most stroke survivors are able to return home and resume many of the activities they were involved in before the stroke occurred.

For more information about the MidAmerica Stroke Network, call 866-676-4326.

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