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Stroke care

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St. Francis can help people who have had a stroke or who are risk of stroke find resources, treatment and support.

A stroke is a medical emergency. As soon as one starts, brain cells begin to die. For all suspected stroke emergencies, call 911.

A stroke happens when blood and oxygen flow to the brain is stopped or interrupted due to either a blockage in a blood vessel or a ruptured blood vessel. This loss of oxygen will cause damage to the brain. The two major kinds of stroke are ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.

Treatment can help, but it needs to be given quickly. For example, a powerful clot-busting drug can reduce the risk of long-term disability from the most common type of stroke. But to work best, it has to be given within three hours of the start of symptoms. This means it's crucial to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and to call 911 right away if you—or someone else—might be having one. Along with calling 911, check the time so that doctors will know if the clot-busting drug can be safely given.

At St. Francis, we are deemed "stroke-ready." This includes offering immediate stroke intervention and management using clot-busting (also called thrombolytic) medications. We have access to stroke neurology specialists either in person or via telehealth 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ischemic stroke

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot, preventing oxygen from reaching brain cells. This is the most common kind of stroke. Causes for ischemic stroke include:

  • Atherosclerosis.
  • Cardioembolism.
  • Small vessel disease.

Transient ischemic attack

About 10% of people have a warning sign before an ischemic stroke. This is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

A TIA is a temporary interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain. The signs and symptoms of a TIA are the same as those experienced with a stroke, but they last for a shorter period (usually less than one hour) and then disappear, without leaving permanent effects.

Because TIAs are temporary and the symptoms may resolve quickly, it is easy to ignore them or to believe that the problem has disappeared. It is dangerous to ignore TIAs because the underlying problem that caused the TIA continues to exist.

It is extremely important to understand that a TIA requires immediate medical attention, as they are often early warning signs of a more serious and debilitating stroke to come.

Hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a brain blood vessel bursts and bleeds, causing blood to leak into or around brain tissue. As it collects, the pool of blood puts pressure on the brain and irritates brain tissue.
The two different types of hemorrhagic stroke are:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

Through prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation, Allina Health is working to lower the incidence and improve the recovery from all types of stroke.

Stroke symptoms

  • Severe headache with no known cause.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden difficulty walking or dizziness, loss of balance or problems with coordination.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body).
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.

Checkout the infographic to learn more: When it comes to stroke, BE FAST.

To prevent a stroke

Certain risk factors increase your chance of having a stroke, many of which can be controlled. These include:

  • Alcohol use.
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
  • Carotid artery disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Diet high in fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • Family history of stroke.
  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Overweight.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD).
  • Personal history of stroke or TIA.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Tobacco use.

To detect a stroke

St. Francis has access to stroke neurology specialists either in person or virtually via TeleStroke 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Get help immediately

As soon as the symptoms of stroke begin, it is very important to call 911. The sooner someone experiencing stroke can get to an emergency department, the better their chances are to get treatment that can reverse the stroke process, limit potential injury or save their life.

At St. Francis, if someone experiencing stroke arrives in time for early treatment choices to have an impact, evaluation maybe expedited by something called a Stroke Code. This is a process that rapidly assembles a team of people to the bedside.

This team's sole purpose is to quickly complete the initial evaluation so that time-sensitive treatment choices are given as quickly as possible (if appropriate). When a stroke is suspected, diagnosis is made by a neurologist who specializes in stoke. The neurologist reviews the patient's symptoms, medical history and physical exam and test results.

The initial physical and neurological examination includes:

  • Blood tests.
  • Swallowing tests.
  • Imaging tests.
  • Heart tests.

Treating a stroke

Initial treatment

Treatment differs depending on the type of stroke, and each type of stroke also has several treatment choices. Stroke treatment is individualized so that it best meets each patient's particular medical needs.

Ischemic stroke

Early treatment for an ischemic stroke focuses on dissolving or removing the blood clot in a blood vessel or preventing further clot formation. Several types of treatment are available.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Early treatment for a hemorrhagic stroke focuses on limiting more bleeding and treating the effects of the blood collection in the brain.

  • Control blood pressure.
  • Control abnormal clotting.
  • Reduce pressure in the cranial cavity
  • Prevent more bleeding.
  • Aneurysm clipping.
  • Coiling (aneurysm or AVM embolization).
  • Surgical AVM removal.
  • Radiosurgery.

Rehabilitation after stroke

St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine offers physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy at our Shakopee, Savage and Chaska locations. Stroke rehabilitation exercises and therapy can help improve common side effects of stroke, including:

  • Abnormal muscle tone.
  • Bowel and bladder changes.
  • Communication difficulties.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Dysphagia (swallowing problems).
  • Loss of cognitive or other brain functions.
  • Loss of movement or sensation.

Physical therapy helps stroke patients improve balance, muscle strength, walking and range of motion. Treatment using exercises to manage incontinence following a stroke is also available.

Occupational therapy helps patients recovering from stroke learn new ways to handle daily activities and develop skills for the job of living.

Speech therapy can help with communication and thinking problems. For example, while recovering from a stroke, you may have difficulty understanding language (aphasia) or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

Aquatic therapy can help patients recovering from stroke return to daily activities more quickly.

Learn more about stroke recovery and rehabilitation by visiting St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine.

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