Until recently, the treatment of stroke was restricted to basic life support at the time of the stroke and rehabilitation later. Now, however, treatments can be beneficial when administered as soon as possible after the onset of the stroke. It is critical to get to the hospital and be diagnosed as soon as possible. There are several steps in the initial assessment and management of a person with a stroke.
Receiving treatment early is essential in reducing the damage from a stroke. The chances for survival and recovery are also best if treatment is received at a hospital specifically certified as a primary stroke center.
Treatment of Ischemic Stroke
Immediate treatment of ischemic stroke aims at dissolving the blood clot. Patients who arrive at the emergency room with signs of acute ischemic stroke are usually given aspirin to help thin the blood. Aspirin can be lethal for patients suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, so it is best not to take aspirin at home and to wait until after the doctor has determined what kind of stroke has occurred.
If patients arrive at the hospital within 3 - 4 hours of stroke onset (when symptoms first appear), they may be candidates for thrombolytic (“clot-buster”) drug therapy. Thrombolytic drugs are used break up existing blood clots. The standard thrombolytic drugs are tissue plasminogen activators (t-PAs). They include alteplase (Activase) and reteplase (Retavase).
The following steps are critical before injecting a clot-buster drug:
Review Date: 05/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.