Strokes - an interruption in the delivery of blood to the brain - are the leading cause of serious disability and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a vessel that delivers blood to the brain is blocked or an aneurysm (balloon-like pouch on the blood vessel wall) ruptures. However, half of all strokes can be prevented by managing risk factors, according to the American Stroke Association.
- If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or carotid artery disease, make dietary and lifestyle changes recommended by your physician.
- Patients who have experienced a mini-stroke or TIA should take all prescribed medications and treatments. A TIA is a warning that should not be ignored.
- If you are a smoker, now is the time to quit.
- If you don’t exercise, now is the time to start. Lack of regular exercise can contribute to heart disease and stroke. It’s also important to maintain a proper weight and have blood tests for cholesterol, triglycerides and other elements that can indicate increased risk for a stroke. Obesity and waist size have proven to have an important impact in stroke risk: the greatest risk is for men with a waist measurement of 40 inches or larger, and women with a waist of 35 inches or larger.
- Patients with several risk factors (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity) are much more likely to suffer a stroke than those with just one or two risk factors. This is called metabolic syndrome.
- Use of illegal drugs and excessive consumption of alcohol can also raise your risk for stroke.
Strokes are not painful, so individuals must be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke, also known as TIA (transient ischemic attack), and seek medical treatment. About one-third of strokes occur in individuals younger than 65.
- Sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, or difficulty in speaking
- Sudden vision problems
- Sudden difficulty in walking
- Sudden dizziness and/or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The warning signs of mini-strokes or TIAs are the same, except that the conditions are temporary. For example, an individual might experience numbness in the face or arms, but regain feeling in a few minutes, or have difficulty seeing but then regain normal vision a few minutes later. TIAs are a warning that the body is likely to experience a stroke. It is extremely important to seek medical evaluation and preventative treatment as quickly as possible.
If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of a stroke, call 911 or visit an emergency room immediately.
Stroke victims that receive immediate treatment are much more likely to make a full recovery. Specialized treatments can significantly improve recovery and can, in some cases, greatly reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of a stroke.
Morton Plant Hospital offers two innovative treatments in the 3-6 hours immediately following a stroke that can significantly improve a patient’s chances of full recovery. In both treatments, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is administered either intravenously or intra-arterially. To determine if a patient is a candidate for tPA, patients first undergo a CT scan in which the exact site of the blockage can be identified.
- Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This drug treatment can be administered within three hours of a stroke. tPA attaches itself to one or more clots and activates plasminogen, which breaks up the clot and allows blood flow to the brain. Not all patients are eligible for this procedure.
Patient Benefits: Patients who receive this treatment within the recommended time frame experienced less long-term damage from a stroke and have a greater chance of making a full recovery and resuming normal daily activities.
- Intra-arterial tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This new treatment can be administered within six hours of a stroke, greatly expanding the critical time frame for immediate treatment. It is given during angiography, so the neurologist can see the clot and inject tPA directly into the blockage using a catheter.
Patient Benefits: This treatment is extremely effective and the expanded time frame allows more patients to reduce stroke damage and achieve a full recovery
Certified by The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center, Morton Plant Hospital offers immediate and innovative treatment for stroke victims, as well as a comprehensive program to assess the causes of a stroke and recommend a personalized treatment plan.
Like other hospitals, our treatment plans often combine medication with surgical procedures. However, we go a step further by providing new minimally invasive procedures that require specially trained and certified physicians and nurses. Many of these procedures use an incision in the groin or leg to access an artery and enter blood vessels in the brain. Depending on the type of stroke, various treatments are used to either remove blood clots from the brain or prevent aneurysms (balloon-like bulges in arteries) from rupturing. The goal is to restore healthy blood flow to the brain and minimize—or reverse—the effects of a stroke.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
Corkscrew Retrieval Device
A tiny clot retrieval device is used to remove clots from blocked arteries in the brain. In some patients, this procedure can almost instantly reverse the damage caused by strokes.
Detachable Coil Embolization
Miniature coil-like devices are placed into aneurysms in the brain to prevent ruptures that can cause stroke. The body responds by forming a blood clot around the device, strengthening the weak spot in the artery or blocking blood flow and preventing ruptures. This procedure allows treatment of brain aneurysms that were previously considered inoperable. In addition, it can be performed under local anesthesia for some patients.
Catheter Embolization, or “Glue” Procedure
Glue in a liquid form is injected into arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) to close off the vessels to control or prevent abnormal bleeding. AVMs are considered one of the leading causes of stroke in people under the age of 65. An AVM is an abnormal collection of blood vessels that impedes the normal delivery of blood to surrounding tissues. This procedure can be used to treat AVMs that either cannot be removed surgically or where surgery would involve unacceptable risks to the patient. The glue material also minimizes the risk of serious brain dysfunction. This procedure is also used to treat brain tumors.
Carotid Artery Stenting
A tiny wire-mesh tube or stent is inserted within the carotid arteries to allow blood flow to return to the brain. This procedure offers some patients an effective and less invasive way to treat carotid artery disease.
Intracranial Angioplasty and Stenting
This procedure involves inserting a stent into the diseased blood vessel to improve blood flow to the brain. For patients with certain types of aneurysms, a special stent is used in conjunction with special miniature coils (described above) to treat these aneurysms without surgery. This procedure offers some patients an effective and less invasive way to treat aneurysms.
Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM) Embolization
Embolization (blocking the blood flow) is a minimally-invasive method of plugging the blood vessels of an AVM (abnormal collection of blood vessels that impedes the normal delivery of blood to surrounding tissues). Under X-ray guidance, a small catheter is guided from an artery in the leg up into the area to be treated. A neurological exam is performed before and after a small amount of medicine is injected. This can help tell if the vessel that feeds the AVM also feeds normal and important portions of the brain. After this, a permanent agent is injected into the AVM and the catheter removed. This is repeated for each vessel that feeds the AVM. This procedure offers some patients an effective and less invasive way to treat AVMs.
Head and Neck Tumor Embolization
Blocking blood flow (embolization) to a tumor prior to surgical removal can improve patient care. If tumors are large or have a large blood supply, they are more difficult to remove and there is a greater risk to the patient. In this instance, a catheter is used to inject a special material into the blood vessels supplying the tumor, which makes it easier to remove. This procedure offers some patients a safer and more effective way to prepare tumors for surgical removal.
Stroke Continuum of Care
The Stroke Clinic at Morton Plant Hospital's Neurosciences Institute is the only outpatient facility in the area that offers a comprehensive stroke assessment by a team of specialists, including a vascular neuroradiologist, an interventional neuroradiologist and a vascular neurosurgeon. These specialists examine imaging studies captured by industry-leading equipment and work together to develop a treatment plan for each patient. In addition to determining each patient's optimal combination of medication and interventional procedures, our Stroke Clinic team performs a complete assessment of each patient’s risk for future stroke, and delivers preventative education, physical therapy and rehabilitation services.
Morton Plant Hospital features a state-of-the-art biplane suite, which maps the brain simultaneously from two directions, and a specialized MRI system that provides physiologic testing of the brain. Called a 3Tesla MRI, this specialized system provides better, sharper imaging of the intricate vessels in the brain. This MRI is also faster and more powerful than a standard MRI system, and can provide an image in 10 minutes that might normally take one hour. This allows our specialists to more precisely assess the amount of blood getting to different parts of the brain prior to performing one of our specialized surgical or non-invasive procedures. These sophisticated digital imaging systems allow our neurovascular team to better assess a patient’s condition in order to determine the correct procedure for each patient and direct how that procedure is performed.
Specialized Post-Operative Care
Morton Plant Hospital offers a dedicated stroke nursing unit so our patients can receive attentive and personalized post-operative care. Our nurses undergo special training and care for only a few patients at a time. In fact, Morton Plant Hospital neurosciences nurses helped to form the local chapter of a medical society for nurses in neurosciences that provides continuing education and training.
All patients that have experienced a stroke or TIA are at risk for a future stroke, so we place great emphasis on educational activities that can greatly reduce this risk. Our Stroke Clinic offers extensive educational materials and training for patients and their families. We also have a stroke coordinator who is dedicated to teaching patients and their families to recognize the warning signs of a stroke or TIA and taking steps to prevent these events.
For more information about our innovative stroke treatments and additional stroke services, please call our Stroke Clinic at (727) 461-8635.
The Neurosciences Institute
Ptak Orthopaedic & Neuroscience Pavilion
430 Morton Plant Street
Clearwater, FL 33756
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