What is a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency. Strokes happen when blood flow to your brain stops. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. There are two kinds of stroke. The more common kind, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. "Mini-strokes," or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.
Stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you have any of these symptoms, you must get to a hospital quickly to begin treatment. Acute stroke therapies try to stop a stroke while it is happening by quickly dissolving the blood clot or by stopping the bleeding. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps individuals overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage. Drug therapy with blood thinners is the most common treatment for stroke.
Source: NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Ohio State has a stroke team in-house around-the-clock to assess people for stroke the moment they arrive in the emergency department. A stroke alert is called by paramedics while the patient is being transported to our hospital, so we are ready to evaluate you and get an immediate computed tomography (CT) scan upon your arrival. This CT scan helps us see bleeding in the brain or damage to the brain cells from a stroke.
Other diagnostic tests we use to verify a stroke include:
- CT angiography, which combines CT and a special dye to examine blood vessels and detect abnormalities in the brain
- CT perfusion scan, which uses dye and a series of CT images to determine blood flow to a region of the brain
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can detect changes in brain tissue and damage to brain cells from a stroke
- MR perfusion scan, which can be performed with or without dye to provide a blood flow map of the brain
- CT arteriogram (CTA) and magnetic resonance arteriogram (MRA), which show the large blood vessels in the brain and may give us more information about the site of a blood clot and the flow of blood through your brain
- Cerebral angiography, a test that uses dye and special X-rays to show the insides of blood vessels in the neck and head