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Stroke Care

As a certified Primary Stroke Center through The Joint Commission, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center provides comprehensive care for patients with stroke. A specially trained team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurointerventionalists and nurses cares for stroke patients. They also provide ongoing reports to each patient’s primary care physician to keep them up-to-date on the patient’s progress throughout treatment.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. These strokes account for approximately 83 percent of all strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed, cutting off oxygen and blood to a portion of the brain. A patient's outlook usually depends on how much of the brain was denied oxygen and for how long. Most physicians believe treatment should begin within three hours of the onset of symptoms for the best possible outcome.

Hemorrhagic strokes are not as common as ischemic strokes, but they much more dangerous. They account for only 17 percent of cases and 50 percent of stroke deaths. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. Because the brain has first priority when it comes to blood supply, the heart will continue to pump blood into the brain, and blood will fill the cranial cavity and compress brain tissue.

An aneurysm is a ballooned section of a blood vessel that, left untreated, can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke. Another precursor to a hemorrhagic stroke is an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). AVMs involve abnormal clusters of blood vessels that short-circuit the flow of nutrients in the blood to the brain.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are considered minor or warning strokes. Much like an ischemic stroke, a TIA involves an obstructed blood vessel, but the clot typically resolves itself. TIAs should not be ignored, however, as they are potential indicators of a major stroke in the future.

Stroke Risk Factors

Stroke risk factors that cannot be controlled include:

  • Age—adults 55 and older are at increased risk of stroke.
  • Family history
  • Gender—stroke is more common in men than in women.
  • Prior transient ischemic attack or heart attack
Risk factors that can be controlled include:
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity and obesity

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in the United States. However, early recognition and treatment of stroke can significantly reduce the impact of a stroke. So, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms.

One way to identify stroke is through FAST:

  • Face: Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm: Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
  • Speech: Does the person’s speech sound strange or slurred, or is the person unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a phrase.
  • Time: Time is critical. Call 911 at any sign of stroke. Every second, 32,000 brain cell die. You can prevent or limit disabilities by going to the emergency room right away.

Diagnosing Stroke

The board-certified radiologists at Illinois Masonic Medical Center provide sophisticated imaging technologies to help diagnose a variety of neurological conditions. These include:

Experts at Illinois Masonic Medical Center may also perform other diagnostic tests, such as carotid ultrasound and risk factor assessments, if they think a patient has had a stroke.

Carotid ultrasound is a painless and harmless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the insides of your carotid arteries. The carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain, face, scalp and neck.

Risk factor assessments are any other tests conducted to determine the cause of a stroke. These tests may include evaluation of blood pressure, a fasting cholesterol blood test and a glycohemoglobin (HbA1C) test, which measures the amount of sugar in your hemoglobin.

Stroke Treatment

Illinois Masonic Medical Center offers a range of stroke treatments, from surgical removal of blood clots and AVMs to the latest in minimally invasive interventional procedures. Treatments include:

  • Carotid endarterectomy: During this surgical procedure, doctors remove fatty deposits from a carotid artery to help prevent a stroke.
  • Tissue plasminogen activator: This is injected into the bloodstream to break up a clot until blood can flow past it. This treatment is used only for ischemic strokes.
  • Aneurysm coiling: During this procedure, a catheter is thread into a small incision in the groin and through the femoral artery to the blockage site. A flexible mesh tube, or stent, is placed at the base of the aneurysm and expanded to conform to the arterial wall. Small metal coils are slid through the stent and into the aneurysm, blocking blood from entering the aneurysm and preventing a rupture. The stent prevents the coils from falling out of the aneurysm sac.
  • Thrombolysis: During this procedure, a catheter is thread through the femoral artery to the site of a blood clot. Then, a clot-busting drug is administered directly to the clot, which reduces the risk for side effects and increases the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Embolectomy: During this procedure, a catheter is thread through the groin and to the site of the clot. Wire coils are sent through the catheter and into the blood clot, grabbing it so it can be removed.
  • AVM embolization: During this procedure, a catheter is thread directly to the AVM, and a drug is injected through the catheter near the AVM vessels. This reduces the size of the AVM in preparation for surgical removal, or completely blocks block flow to the AVM vessels.

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