What is the best treatment for a stroke?

The best treatment for a stroke depends on the type of stroke, and whether it has been caused by a blockage or by a burst blood vessel. Treatment has to be fast.

Blocked blood vessels may need a treatment called thrombolysis. Thrombolysis breaks down clots. This works best if clots are the main problem. Every stroke is different, so thrombolysis isn’t for everyone. If the stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel, it’s harder to treat and thrombolysis cannot be used. But sometimes an operation helps.

The best treatment for a stroke includes two options. Within the first 4.5 hours of stroke symptoms, tPA, a clot busting medication, can be administered. Endovascular therapy is another option for people needing treatment within 24 hours of stroke symptoms. Endovascular therapy is a procedure to remove the blockage in an artery in the brain with the assistance of a catheter and stent. Both tPA and endovascular therapy try to re-establish blood flow to the brain to treat stroke.

Stroke is a medical emergency and is best treated as quickly as possible. For treatment of ischemic strokes, intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) is a clot busting medication that is safe and effective up to 4.5 hours from the onset of symptoms. It is the only FDA approved medication for the treatment of ischemic strokes. There are more advanced methods of opening blood vessels causing a stroke, called endovascular thrombectomy, which is available at some stroke centers.

Dr. Kelly Traver

The best treatment for a stroke is prevention-by achieving good control of diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol and staying away from tobacco. Lifestyle-related behaviors, such as a good night's sleep, stress management, exercise, and healthy nutrition, also play a critical role. The same things that prevent a heart attack prevent a stroke because the process is really the same. Through lifestyle measures, you can significantly minimize the risks of both heart attack and stroke.

Treatment for your stroke may include: regular medical care, medication, and rehabilitation.

Regular medical care to help prevent another stroke and to properly monitor and manage your condition.

  • Make a plan for which doctor(s) you will see and when you will see them.
  • Be sure to have a list of all your medications with you for all your doctor visits. 
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly so that it can be kept under control.

Medication to prevent blood clots from forming and to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol -- all risk factors for stroke.

Important Facts About Medication:

  • Always take medications as prescribed. This will reduce your risk of another stroke.
  • Never change the dosage without checking with your doctor. 
  • Don’t stop medications without speaking to your doctor first. 
  • Do not combine medication with alcohol. 
  • Store medications in a safe place. 
  • Don’t use medications that have expired. 
  • When starting a new medication, review the medications you are already taking with your doctor or pharmacist; some drug combinations can cause an adverse reaction. 
  • If you or your family members have questions, please follow up with your doctor.

In rehabilitation you may participate in a variety of therapies to help you regain maximal strength and function. Based on your needs, your rehabilitation team may include:

  • Occupational Therapist: Relearn safe ways of performing your daily activities. Focuses on the use of arms, hands, and fingers.
  • Physical Therapist: Relearn coordination and balance. Focuses on leg strength and mobility. 
  • Speech Therapist: Relearn ability to speak, communicate, and/or swallow. 
  • Psychological Therapist: Helps you adjust and cope with the changes that have occurred as a result of your stroke.
  • Clinical Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian: Helps you plan a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.