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Stroke

For the more than 750,000 Americans who will suffer a stroke this year, quick intervention is essential to reduce their risk of death or permanent disability. With our significant advances in stroke medicine and exceptional expertise, Allegheny Health Network specialists are able to treat patients more effectively than ever. As certified Stroke Centers by the American Heart Association’s Joint Commission, AHN hospitals consistently provide proven medical therapy to stroke patients so they experience exceptional recoveries.

There are two primary types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open. This causes blood to leak into the brain.

Allegheny Health Network's certified stroke centers provide specialized care for ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, including the post-operative care of patients who undergo interventional stroke procedures. 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 new and elite designation was established to recognize the nation’s preeminent and most capable referral centers for the treatment of complex stroke injuries and cerebrovascular disease. AGH is among just 30 medical centers in the country to earn this rigorous certification for advanced stroke treatment programs.

Prior to receiving this certification, AGH was among more than 1,000 Joint Commission certified Primary Stroke Centers that have an established, formal program to treat stroke patients effectively and consistently with the goal of improving care and outcomes. Other AHN hospitals that are certified as Primary Stroke Centers include Allegheny Valley, Forbes, Jefferson, Saint Vincent and West Penn. To earn advanced certification, hospitals must meet a number of important criteria, including having a standardized protocol for stroke care; providing access to a stroke neurologist 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and having standardized patient education processes.

According to The Joint Commission, the best possible stroke patient outcomes are experienced at hospitals that offer timely access to proven medical therapy. The gold standard is administration of blood thinning medication within a three-hour window from the time of a stroke’s onset.

Symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of stroke. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. If any of these symptoms are present, call 911 (or your local ambulance service) immediately. Treatment is most effective when started immediately.

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

 

Other, less common, symptoms of stroke may include the following:

  • 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) or "mini-stroke"

 

Diagnosis

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) angiogram uses large magnets attached to a computer to show the flow of blood through your blood vessels.

Carotid arteriogram (angiogram) is an X-ray image of the blood vessels used to show specific arteries. A dye (contrast) is injected through a thin flexible tube placed in an artery, and the dye makes the blood vessels visible on the X-ray.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. It is used to view internal organs as they function and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Echocardiogram (echo) evaluates the structure and function of the heart by using sound waves recorded on an electronic sensor that produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.

Treatments

The goals of treatment are to prevent life-threatening complications that may occur soon after stroke symptoms develop, prevent future strokes, reduce disability, prevent long-term complications and help you regain your functioning abilities through rehabilitation. The treatment that each patient receives is based on the type of stroke and the seriousness of the symptoms. The gold standard of stroke treatment is administration of blood thinning medication within a three-hour window from the time of a stroke’s onset.