How is a stroke treated?

"Clot-busting" drugs must be given within hours after a stroke to minimize damage. That's why it's important to call 9-1-1 if you're having symptoms.

Several options for surgical treatment of blocked blood vessels are available. These include:

  • Carotid artery surgery, also called carotid endarterectomy, removes buildups of fat inside the artery and restores blood flow to the brain.
  • Carotid stenting can remove a blockage in a blood vessel to the brain. A small tube with a balloon attached is threaded into the narrowed or blocked blood vessel. Then the balloon is inflated, opening the narrowed artery. A wire tube, or stent, may be left in place to help keep the artery open.

Treatment following a stroke includes treatments and exercises to restore function or help people relearn skills. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy may be included, as well as psychological counseling. Steps to prevent future problems should include quitting smoking, healthy eating, physical activity, and medicines to manage blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. To treat a stroke, doctors can go through the arteries and take the clot out of the brain. They place a suction device next to the clot, attach to it, break it up and then suction it back into the catheter and pull it out of the brain, restoring the blood flow.

Not every stroke is caused by a blood clot however, so doctors use similar technology to treat a different kind of stroke, one caused by an aneurysm or a blood vessel that's bleeding into the brain. They do this by running a catheter up to the brain and sticking coils into the aneurysm or the arteriovenous malformation (AVM) to embolize it, which means to clot it and make it so that it can't bleed again. These treatment methods are safer than many of the previously available stroke treatment options.

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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.