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A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is suddenly blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells (hemorrhagic stroke). Both stroke types can cause brain cells to die, potentially resulting in temporary or permanent brain damage.

Ischemic Strokes 
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked. The brain depends on blood vessels, called arteries, to deliver blood to all areas of the brain, in turn supplying oxygen to the brain. The brain controls your ability to speak, see and move your arms and legs. If an artery gets blocked, the brain does not get the amount of blood it needs to work. Treatment of an ischemic stroke includes medications and procedures to remove blockages in the blood vessel causing the stroke. Upon arrival in the Emergency Department, the stroke patient will be evaluated to see if he/she can receive a medication called tPA/Alteplase. Alteplase, sometimes referred to as a clot-busting medication, is administered through an IV in the arm. To get the best results, the clot buster must be given as quickly as possible after the onset of stroke symptoms. Certain ischemic stroke patients may benefit from a mechanical clot retrieval. During the procedure, a thin catheter is inserted into the femoral artery and thread through the brain’s blood vessels to the clot. The catheter is used to disrupt and remove the stroke-causing blood clot.

Hemorrhagic Strokes
Occurring less often than an ischemic stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke is caused when a blood vessel bursts and blood spills into the brain. The spill causes increased pressure and swelling, resulting in damage to the brain. Diagnostic tests such as CT and CTA scans can help identify the source of bleeding. A CT scan shows the location and size of the clot and a CTA scan examines the brain’s blood vessels for a possible malfunction. Hemorrhagic strokes are treated either through medication or surgery, depending on whether it is caused by bleeding between the brain and skull or within the brain tissue. The goal of treatment is to repair the cause of bleeding, relieve symptoms and prevent complications such as permanent brain damage.