Ischemic Stroke (Restore Blood Flow)
For people with an ischemic stroke (which accounts for 80 percent of stroke cases), restoring blood flow to the brain is vital to prevent or limit damage to the brain tissue and to prevent another stroke. Brain cells die quickly when they do not receive oxygen- or nutrient-rich blood. The main treatments used to restore blood flow to the heart involve thrombolytic drugs.
Healthcare providers may prescribe thrombolytic ("clot-busting") drugs to dissolve blood clots that are blocking blood flow to the brain. When given soon after an ischemic stroke begins, these drugs can limit or prevent permanent damage to the brain by dissolving the blood clot. In treating a stroke that has just occurred, every minute counts. Get a person who has had a stroke to the hospital as soon as possible after stroke symptoms start so he or she may be evaluated and receive treatment as soon as possible.
A thrombolytic drug known as tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA, Activase®) can be effective for treating a stroke if a person receives it within three hours after his or her stroke symptoms have started. Because thrombolytic drugs can increase bleeding, doctors only use t-PA when they are certain that the person has suffered an ischemic stroke and not a hemorrhagic stroke.
Hemorrhagic Stroke (Stop the Bleeding)
In people with a hemorrhagic stroke, treatment options will depend on what is causing the bleeding. The key with this type of treatment is to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. Surgery may be one option. For example, in people with a brain aneurysm that that has bled, healthcare providers may recommend a technique called "clipping." Clipping involves clamping off the aneurysm from the blood vessel, which reduces the chance that it will burst and bleed.
The detachable coil technique is a new therapy for treating high-risk intracranial aneurysms, or aneurysms that occur inside the skull. Doctors insert a small platinum coil through an artery in the thigh and thread it through the arteries to the site of the aneurysm. They then release the coil into the aneurysm, where it triggers an immune response from the body. This immune response causes a blood clot to form inside the aneurysm, strengthening the artery walls and reducing the risk of rupture. Once the aneurysm is stabilized, a neurosurgeon can clamp it off with less risk of bleeding and death to the patient.