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Stroke

A stroke is a serious medical condition that can have life-changing consequences. Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year. Quick intervention and evidence-based treatment give patients the best chance at a full recovery.

The expert neurology and neuro-interventional programs at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute, including a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, offers significant advances in stroke medicine. At AHN, rapid treatment and robust support services help improve your health and recovery so you can get back to your life.

What is a stroke?

There are two primary types of stroke:

  • Ischemic stroke: Occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain
  • Hemorrhagic stroke:When part of a blood vessel in the brain ruptures (bursts) or leaks, causing bleeding into the brain

Expert stroke care at AHN

Allegheny General Hospital is one of the first medical centers in the country to be designated as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, the American Heart Association’s highest distinction of care.

This elite designation recognizes the nation’s most capable referral centers for the treatment of complex stroke injuries and cerebrovascular conditions. Allegheny General Hospital is among 156 medical centers in the country to earn this rigorous certification. Learn more about AHN’s cerebrovascular and stroke care.

AHN’s certified stroke centers provide specialized care for patients after an ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Our wide range of services includes:

  • Acute stroke treatment with intravenous tPA: This medication, also known as a “clot buster,” dissolves blood clots and can reduce the disability of patients eligible for treatment. This medication must be given within 4.5 hours from when a patient’s stroke symptoms first occur.
  • Telestroke services: We use telestroke consultations to support physicians treating acute stroke in local community hospitals throughout western Pennsylvania. We provide immediate assessments and treatment plans for patients with complex needs.
  • Endovascular therapy: Our physicians perform advanced endovascular procedures, which are less invasive ways to effectively remove blood clots. This therapy can benefit eligible patients with acute stroke due to blocked brain blood vessels, which cause the most severe types of stroke. This therapy can be delivered up to 24 hours from when the stroke first occurred.
  • Neurocritical care: We treat patients who have complex neurological illnesses and intensive care needs.
  • Surgical and postoperative care: Our neurologists and neuro-interventionalists take excellent care of patients who undergo a range of advanced surgical procedures to treat stroke, such as removal of blood clots in the brain and treatment of brain swelling due to stroke.

Stroke symptoms

People experience stroke symptoms differently. Because stroke treatment is more effective when started immediately, call 911 (or your local ambulance service) right away if you notice any signs of stroke, including.

  • Weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Vision problems, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination
  • Problems moving or walking
  • Severe headache, with no known cause
  • Loss of consciousness

A stroke may cause other, less common symptoms such as:

  • Sudden nausea, vomiting, or fever (not caused by a viral illness)
  • Brief loss or change of consciousness, such as fainting, confusion, seizures, or coma
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a "mini stroke"

Diagnosing stroke

To diagnose a stroke, physicians first do a physical examination. Depending on your symptoms, doctors may also use:

  • NIH Stroke Scale: This tool helps physicians assess the severity of a person's disability in real time, during the potential stroke. Doctors use the information to plan the most effective treatment. Patients with greater disabilities may benefit more from certain therapies.
  • CT (computed tomography) imaging: Advanced imaging such as a CT scan of the brain can show doctors whether there’s evidence of bleeding or visible damage from an evolving stroke. A CT angiogram (which uses a special dye to look for blood clots in the arteries of the brain) or CT perfusion (which looks at how blood flows in the brain) helps physicians determine which patients would benefit the most from specific stroke treatments.

Get expert stroke treatment at AHN

The ideal treatment for you is based on the type of stroke and the severity of the symptoms. The main stroke treatments today are:

  • Intravenous tPA (clot buster), which we give to eligible patients within 4.5 hours of the onset of a stroke.
  • Stroke thrombectomy, a catheter-based treatment that we perform up to 24 hours from the beginning of the stroke. We remove a blood clot in the brain artery using specialized catheters (hollow tubes and wires), stents, and suction devices.

The goals of stroke treatment depend on your circumstances. At AHN, our team works to:

  • Prevent life-threatening complications that may occur soon after stroke symptoms develop
  • Prevent future strokes
  • Reduce disability
  • Prevent long-term complications
  • Help you regain your abilities through rehabilitation

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412.362.8677) or request an appointment to learn more about AHN neuroscience services.