What is Acute Ischemic Stroke?

Acute ischemic stroke is a condition where part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. The body functions controlled by the damaged portion of brain are then diminished or cease. This can cause symptoms such as numbness or weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding or coordination problems.

The stroke occurs when an artery bringing oxygen to the brain is blocked off. This can occur because a blood clot can travel from elsewhere in the body until it lodges in a blood vessel which is smaller than the clot. Plaque, a combination of calcium, cholesterol and other substances, can also build up in the larger arteries in the neck. A piece can break off and travel further into the brain where it can lodge in a smaller vessel, blocking it off.

There are other causes of stroke, but the end result is the same: loss of function due to the brain being deprived of oxygen. In general, the larger the blood clot, the larger the amount of brain that is damaged, and the more significant the symptoms the patient experiences.

A medication called Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) can be introduced into the patient’s vein. This medication can travel through the patient’s body and help to dissolve the clot. tPa is approved for strokes less than 3 hours old and in some cases the treatment window may be extended out further. The sooner the clot is dissolved, the quicker normal blood flow can be reestablished and the smaller the stroke will be.

That’s why we say, “Time is brain”. If you or a loved one experience the symptoms of a stroke, call 9-1-1 and go to the nearest emergency room.

Transient Ischemic Attack, or Mini Stroke

A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, occurs when the brain is temporarily deprived of oxygen and the patient develops stroke symptoms but these resolve within 24 hours. This is sometimes referred to as a “mini stroke”.

A TIA is a warning sign that a full stroke is likely. The symptoms are the same as a full stroke. These include the drooping of one side of the face, numbness or weakness in one arm, one leg, or the arm and leg on the same side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding or a combination of these symptoms.

A TIA or mini stroke is an emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately. It is impossible to tell at the onset if it is a TIA or a complete full stroke. Do not delay. “Time is brain.”

What is Stroke Surgery Like?

In many cases, a patient may not get a complete reversal of their stroke symptoms with the Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) medication mentioned earlier. In these situations, additional treatments may be available to dissolve, break up, or remove the clot that is causing the stroke.

Acute stroke intervention involves passing a catheter from an artery in the patient’s groin up to the head and under a specialized x-ray identifying the clot where it is blocking off the blood flow to the brain.

Dr. Ahuja is specially trained in this type of treatment that is offered at very few hospitals. These innovative treatments for acute ischemic stroke offer options to patients who may otherwise be severely disabled or even die from the stroke and its complications.

How do I Reduce the Risk of a Stroke?

The best way to reduce the risk of a stroke is to reduce the number of modifiable risk factors.

Modifiable Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Certain heart conditions

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

  • Age (older people have more risk)
  • Family history
  • Gender (men and women after menopause are at greater risk)

For more information about reducing your risk factors for stroke, see your family doctor, review information from the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org, or visit the National Stroke Association website: www.stroke.org.