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Stroke care

Allina Health can help people who've had a stroke or are at risk of stroke find resources, treatment and support.

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What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is stopped or interrupted. This happens because of a burst (ruptured) or blocked blood vessel.

The brain needs a constant supply of blood and oxygen. It can’t store blood or oxygen. A stroke can cause serious disability and can be life-threatening.

Signs and symptoms of a stroke

Call 911 and get to the closest Emergency Department right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Balance. Sudden loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking or dizziness.
  • Eyes. Sudden blurred, double or loss of vision in one or both eyes. 
  • Face or smile droops on one side.
  • Arms. Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis in an arm, hand or leg, usually only on one side of the body.
  • Speech. Sudden trouble speaking or understanding language, including confusion, slurred words or inability to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Headache. Sudden severe headache without a known cause.

Check out the infographic on When it comes to stroke BE FAST 

Types of stroke

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

  • Ischemic strokes. This type of stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked. Ischemic strokes may lead to widespread brain injury. This injury can cause swelling in the brain and can lead to severe disability or death.

There are two types of ischemic strokes: thrombotic and embolic.

  1. Thrombotic strokes occur when fatty deposits (plaque) attach inside the artery walls. The plaque may narrow or close the artery. This may reduce blood flow to the brain. A thrombotic stroke is caused by plaque buildup and the sudden formation of a blood clot.
  2. Embolic strokes happen when a small blood clot forms in any part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to the brain. This clot becomes stuck and blocks a blood vessel.  In more severe strokes, the large arteries in your brain or neck may be blocked. This blockage may cause permanent injury to a large part of the brain.
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) are sometimes called a “mini-stroke” or a “warning stroke.” TIA stroke symptoms don’t cause brain injury, and they don’t last. If you had a TIA, your risk for a larger stroke is higher. Important: TIAs require the same immediate attention as a stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes. This type of stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke: subarachnoid hemorrhages and intracerebral hemorrhages.
  1. Subarachnoid hemorrhages occur when blood leaks into the space between the brain and the middle membrane that covers it.
  2. Intracerebral hemorrhages happen when a small blood vessel in the brain bursts and leaks. This causes bleeding in the brain.

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

Stroke risk factors

Certain risk factors increase your chance of having a stroke. Your health care provider can help you identify potential risks and create a personalized plan to help you control them.

Risks you can control:

  • high blood pressure
  • tobacco use
  • atrial fibrillation
  • diabetes
  • prediabetes
  • high cholesterol heart disease
  • extra weight
  • physical inactivity
  • carotid artery disease
  • peripheral artery disease
  • poor diet alcohol abuse
  • street drugs

Risks you can’t control:

  • age
  • family history (genetics)
  • sex
  • race
  • previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)

How Allina Health can help

All Allina Health hospitals have access to stroke neurology specialists either in person or via Telehealth 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Get care right away

The sooner someone with a stroke gets 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.

The Emergency Department may use a “stroke code.” This code calls a specialized stroke team to your bedside. This process helps you quickly get care.

Members of your stroke team will determine if you are having a stroke by reviewing your health history, symptoms, physical exam and test results. They may talk with members of your care circle about treatment options.

The initial physical and neurological exam includes:

  • Blood tests. This helps your stroke care team identify your available treatment options.
  • Swallowing tests are used to help find the cause of any problems you may have swallowing or moving your mouth.
  • Imaging tests. You’ll have a CT (computed tomography) scan. This scan uses an X-ray and a computer to get an in-depth look at your brain. The result is an image that provides a clear and detailed picture. A CT scan will be done to rule out hemorrhage (bleeding) as the type of stroke.
  • Heart tests. This is a heart rhythm test done at the bedside. An EKG may be done to find the cause of your stroke and identify treatment options.

Stroke treatment

Treatment begins in the Emergency Department. Your treatment will depend on your type of stroke.  Stroke treatment is personalized to best meet your unique medical needs. Not all strokes can be treated with medicine, especially if arrival to the Emergency Department is delayed.

You may have medicines prescribed during your hospital stay, such as:

  • aspirin
  • extended release dipyridamole and aspirin combination (Aggrenox®), clopidogrel (Plavix®), and others
  • warfarin (Jantoven®)
  • apixaban (Eliquis®)

Ischemic stroke treatment

Your stroke care team may start treatment to dissolve or remove a blood clot.

Initial treatments may include thrombolytic (tenecteplase or alteplase) clot-dissolving treatment or aspirin.

Procedures treating ischemic stroke include:

  • mechanical thrombectomy
  • carotid endarterectomy
  • transcarotid artery revascularization
  • transfemoral artery carotid stent
  • craniotomy
  • ventriculostomy

Hemorrhagic stroke treatment

Your stroke care team will start treatment to stop the bleeding in your brain. Your treatment may also help reduce pressure on your brain. Options include:

  • blood pressure medicine
  • medicine through an intravenous (IV) line to quickly manage your blood pressure
  • transfusion to help your blood clot quicker

Stroke recovery

The effects of stroke are different for everyone. Your stroke may affect how you think, move and feel. Your multispecialty health care team will put your needs at the center.

We’ll recommend treatment options and help you maintain as much independence as possible. 

Good to know

Allina Health is a recognized leader in stroke care, offering comprehensive services for stroke patients and their families throughout the Allina Health system. Capabilities encompass the full spectrum of neurovascular care, including fast, accurate diagnosis, access to the most advanced treatments available and extensive rehabilitation services. 

Every Allina Health hospital is recognized as stroke ready by the state of Minnesota. That means every hospital is prepared to evaluate, stabilize and provide life-saving emergency care to patients who have symptoms of a stroke.

Certified Comprehensive Stroke Centers

Abbott Northwestern and United hospitals have been awarded certification as Comprehensive Stroke Centers. Certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center is recognition that the hospital is able to offer the highest level of treatment and care available for stroke patients, including advanced neuro-interventional radiology, neurosurgery and neuro-critical care services.

Certified Primary Stroke Centers

Mercy Hospital - Mercy Campus and Mercy Hospital - Unity Campus are certified Primary Stroke Centers, demonstrating a focus on performance improvement and excellence in quality indicators for optimal stroke care.

Acute stroke-ready hospitals - certified by the Minnesota Department of Health

Related links

Last reviewed: 2/15/2023