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Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs when either a blood clot or piece of plaque blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain. Ischemic strokes are more common than hemorrhagic strokes and account for more than 85% of all stroke incidents. If you experience an ischemic stroke, SSM Health is able to provide life-saving care for this potentially devastating condition.

Often called a “mini-stroke,” a transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when the blood supply to the brain is only briefly interrupted due to the blood clot disappearing quickly on its own. Because TIAs are temporary and the body quickly returns to normal, it is easy to ignore them; however, TIAs are often early warning signs for a more serious and debilitating stroke in the future. In fact, about one-third of strokes are preceded by one or more TIAs. Listen to your body, seek medical attention if you experience the symptoms of TIA.

Signs & Symptoms of Ischemic Stroke

If you or someone you love is at risk for stroke, recognizing the signs and symptoms could help save a life. Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly and may include:

  • Severe headache without a known cause
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Time is critical when a stroke occurs. Prepare yourself by finding an SSM Health emergency room nearest to you, so you know where to go in the event of a crisis.

Treating Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke is a medical emergency and immediate care is critical. If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 or have someone drive you to the hospital immediately. The goal of treatment is to break up or remove the clot causing the blockage. Treatment may include a number of medications and procedures.

Emergency Treatment with Medications

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This clot-busting drug helps re-establish blood flow to the brain by dissolving clots. Injected through an IV, tPA can significantly reduce the effects of ischemic stroke, saving lives and reducing the risk of permanent disability.

Antiplatelets: Platelets in the blood help to form clots. This stops or slows bleeding when you have a cut, for example. But if you are having a stroke, clots must be prevented, so antiplatelet medications may be given to keep the blood flowing. Before antiplatelets are given, your doctor will ask you for information about conditions that might increase your risk of bleeding.

Anticoagulants: Often called blood thinners, anticoagulants may be prescribed by your physician following a stroke, especially if you suffer from a condition such as atrial fibrillation. By reducing the ability of the blood to clot, these help to keep blood vessels open, delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

Endovascular therapy: During this non-invasive procedure, SSM Health specialists use a device threaded through a blood vessel in the leg to physically remove the clot lodged in the brain or artery, restoring critical blood flow to the brain.

Carotid stenting: Carotid artery stenosis (narrowing) causes as many as one in five strokes. Traditional treatment involves open surgery to clear the narrowed arteries of plaque. SSM Health neuro-interventionists offer a non-surgical alternative in carotid angioplasty and stenting to widen narrowed arteries.

Surgical Procedures

Carotid endarterectomy: This traditional treatment is used to remove atherosclerotic plaque from the carotid artery when the vessel is narrowed or blocked. The surgeon makes an incision in the neck, the artery is opened and the plaque is removed. It has recently been proven that for certain patients with minor strokes or TIAs, carotid endarterectomy is highly beneficial in preventing future strokes. This procedure is also beneficial for some patients with blockage of the carotid arteries who have not had previous symptoms.

Revascularization (bypass): This technique is used to establish a new route for blood to reach the brain, usually by grafting another vessel to a cerebral artery.

From emergency care and diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, our multidisciplinary team of stroke specialists are prepared to provide you the most advanced, comprehensive care for stroke. While advances in stroke care have improved your chance of surviving, your risk of stroke can be minimized by teaming with your SSM Health provider to reduce your risk factors. Take our stroke risk assessment today and then schedule an appointment to review your results and discuss next steps.

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