Stroke generally happens suddenly and medical care needs to be administered as quickly as possible. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, but also the available treatment options. With this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to help a loved one in the event of an emergency.
Ischemic Stroke Treatment Options
In acute ischemic stroke, the blockage of blood flow is usually caused by a blood clot. The primary goal in treating acute ischemic stroke is to restore the flow of blood to the parts of the brain affected by the stroke by dissolving the clot, removing the clot or by otherwise resolving the blockage. Based on the patient’s symptoms, the blockage location and other diagnostic testing, the treating physician will determine the most appropriate method of care.
Lytic or “Clot Busting” Drugs
If diagnosis of an acute ischemic stroke occurs within the first three hours from the onset of symptoms, the treating physician may administer a drug type called a lytic or “clot buster” also referred to as tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator).
It is generally administered intravenously (through a vein in the arm). The drug works by traveling through the body to the clot and breaking it apart.
Some patients may not be eligible for tPA due to serious illness, recent surgery, clotting disorders or other conditions. And unfortunately, since most patients do not reach the hospital within the first three hours, only 3–4% of those who suffer an acute ischemic stroke receive this treatment. In these cases, other medical intervention may be necessary.
Endovascular Clot Removal
When lytic therapy is not a well-suited option for a patient, the treating physician may recommend endovascular clot removal.
Endovascular means inside the blood vessels. This type of treatment is typically minimally invasive, meaning a physician accesses various parts of the body, including the brain, through the body’s major blood vessels instead of cutting open the specific area of the body.
There are a number of devices available for removing the clot. The treating physician will determine the best option based on patient anatomy, blockage location and time from symptom onset, among other factors.