A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off or restricted, causing brain cells in the affected area to die due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. It is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention if any symptoms have been spotted.
Recognising a stroke quickly is the best way to prevent severe or permanent damage to the brain. The acronym FAST can be used to help identify if someone is having a stroke.
Face: The face may have dropped on once side, with the mouth or eye drooping unnaturally, there may be an inability to smile.
Speech: The person’s speech may be slurred or garbled. Or totally unable to speak despite appearing conscious.
Time: If any of the above symptoms are noticed, it is time call 999 immediately for urgent medical attention.
Other symptoms may also occur but may not always be a sign of a stroke.
• Sudden, severe headache
• Sudden loss or blurring of vision
• Complete paralysis of one side of the body
• Struggling with balance and/or coordination
• Difficulty understanding others
• Loss of consciousness
• Difficulty swallowing
There are two main types of stroke, ischaemic strokes are the most common and are caused by an arterial blockage to the brain.
Haemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing bleeding in or around the brain.
Strokes are more common in older people as age causes arteries to narrow or harden, making them more likely to become blocked.
Thrombolysis involves using the medication alteplase to dissolve the clot in the affected artery and restore blood flow to the brain. Alteplase is given through IV and is most effective when used within three hours of the start of a stroke. To begin thrombolysis treatment, a brain scan needs to be completed to confirm the stroke is ischaemic, this is because thrombolysis can make a haemorrhagic stroke worse.
A thrombectomy is an emergency procedure and physically removes blood clots, this procedure can only be done if the clot is in a large artery in the brain and is most effective when done as soon as possible. A catheter is inserted into the artery, and then a device is passed through and removes the clot. The procedure can be performed under local or general anaesthetic.
Antiplatelet drugs act against clotting by preventing platelets from sticking together, paracetamol contains antiplatelets and may be administered to aid any treatment. Anticoagulants cannot be used in the treatment of a stroke but can be used to prevent blood clotting in future by changing the chemical composition of blood.
A craniotomy can be performed to remove blood from the brain and repair burst blood vessels. During this surgical procedure, a section of the skull is removed to allow access to the affected area, which is then replaced with a metal plate once the issue is resolved.
Endovascular Coiling is a minimal-invasive procedure where a small coil is placed, via a catheter, within the bleeding artery to prevent it from rupturing further.
The best way to prevent a stroke is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not smoking, minimising alcohol intake, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can all reduce the chance of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (fatty substance build up in arteries), all of which increase the chance of having a stroke.
If you already have an underlying condition that increases the chance of a stroke, managing the condition effectively can help to prevent further risk.
If you believe you are having a stroke call 999 immediately, or contact your GP for advice if you think you may have an increased risk.
HMT operates two not-for-profit hospitals in Grimsby and Swansea, discover more here;
St Hughs Hospital in Grimsby – 01472 251 100
Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea – 01792 479 040