What is a stroke?
Stroke - is blocking (overlap) or rupture of the blood vessel that supplies blood to a different part of the brain. The brain without a blood supply is doomed to damage or death in all cases.
The human brain controls our movements, stores our memories, and is the source of our thoughts, language and emotions. The brain is also responsible for many body functions, such as breathing and digestion. For continuous work, the brain needs oxygen delivered by the arteries. When oxygen is blocked, death begins in a few minutes, and it is a stroke.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischemic - the blood flow is blocked for a while, and it accounts for 87% of all strokes.
- Hemorrhagic - rupture of the cerebral artery, flowing blood puts pressure on brain cells, damaging them.
More than 13 million people suffer a stroke every year, and about 5.5 million people die due to this disease. Stroke has already become an epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, one in four adults over the age of 25 will suffer from a stroke. Current trends suggest that the number of deaths per year will increase to 6.7 million if appropriate measures would not be taken.
The result of stroke treatment is based on time. Minutes are crucial. The sooner the stroke is determined, the sooner treatment will begin. The best results show therapy if it is started within three hours after symptoms start. There are classic signs of stroke, but not all symptoms can be observed simultaneously. Sometimes, only some of them are visible:
- dizziness, acute or severe headache for no reason;
- weakness and numbness in the face or body;
- confusion in speech, ability to speak and understand other people;
- vision issues;
- problems with walking, maintaining balance, and coordination.
The diagnosis and cause of the disease can be confirmed by tests which include:
- Blood test - shows blood sugar and cholesterol levels; Heart rate check, blood pressure measurement
- CT scan (computer tomography scan) - is a special type of X-ray showing a three-dimensional image of the brain.
- MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) - magnets and radio waves are used to obtain a detailed picture of the brain.
Next, the heart and blood vessels are studied. Finally, a further treatment strategy is chosen when the cause of stroke is found.
- Ultrasound (ultrasound examination) of carotid arteries - high-frequency sound waves are sent to the body, and their reflection helps create a picture inside the body. There is a narrowing or blockage of carotid arteries leading to the brain.
- Echocardiography - thanks to the ultrasound sensor located in the chest, doctors get a clear image of the heart, the presence of any problems, blood clots and other anomalies.
Comprehensive and accurate diagnosis provides complete assistance in case of stroke in the acute phase, medical treatment, and help after a stroke.
If a stroke is confirmed, emergency care is provided. It consists of:
- Emergency intravenous drug administration - is the gold standard for stroke treatment. It can destroy blood clots and is prescribed as soon as symptoms appear. As a result, the blood flow is restored, dissolving the blood clot that caused the stroke.
- Emergency endovascular intervention - treatment of stroke inside the clogged vessel and can be done in two ways:
- The medicine is delivered directly to the brain - a catheter with the drug is inserted into the groin directly into the stroke-affected area of the brain.
- Removal of the blood clot with the help of a stent retriever - with the use of a particular device attached to the catheter, the blood clot is removed. Especially suitable for patients with large blood clots that are difficult to absorb.
- Carotid endarterectomy - with the help of surgical intervention, the plaque that closes the vessels is removed from the carotid artery (arteries that feed the brain).
- Angioplasty and stents - a stent is inserted into the carotid artery. It expanded the wall of the vessel.
The main principle of stroke treatment is to understand that every second is on the account. Researchers worldwide aim to achieve a high level of success in blood clot destruction and the best functional outcome. Early detection and treatment of stroke is the key to improving survival, minimizing disability and accelerating recovery time.
New treatment options
Stroke is terrible by its complications. The outcome of the disease is due to several factors, including the type of stroke, the affected part of the brain and the time required to receive medical care. Any kind can be pretty severe, but some are more likely to lead to severe disability or death.
After emergency care, the patient is under close supervision of medical personnel. All subsequent stroke assistance is aimed at helping the patient restore as many functions as possible and return to independent living. The human brain has an internal ability to rebuild its connections after a stroke. Therefore, even though it is impossible to eliminate brain damage, there is the possibility of carrying out rehabilitation measures to improve the functions of the patient's body.
The rehabilitation process is different for each patient, but there are such types of rehabilitation:
- Physiotherapeutic - with the help of special exercises, improve movements, balance, and coordination.
- Ergotherapeutic - assisting and acquiring everyday life skills, such as eating and swimming.
- Speech therapy - elimination of problems with speech and swallowing.
- Psychological - assistance in overcoming emotional issues, depression or anxiety.
The best option for recovery from a stroke is inpatient rehabilitation departments. They have a broad range of medical services in the arsenal, including round-the-clock medical supervision and access to the full content of therapists specializing in post-stroke rehabilitation and more specialized equipment. Staying in such a medical institution usually lasts 2 to 12 weeks and involves an advanced rehabilitation package.
Rehabilitation after a stroke is the fastest growing area of therapeutic research. Technology develops advanced systems and mechanisms. It creates modern therapeutic aspects and complements existing ones to develop new potential treatments for stroke survivors.
Statistics and prognosis
The consequences of stroke can be short-term and long-term and depend on the affected part of the brain and the treatment time frames. In addition, stroke survivors may have a wide range of disabilities, including mobility and speech issues and difficulties with thinking and feeling.
Improving the ability to walk is one of the top priorities for people who have suffered a stroke. A study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to study the impact of rehabilitation measures on the restoration of walking in post-stroke patients is very promising. A group of patients underwent consistent rehabilitation for two years. At the end of the study, 74% of patients regained the ability to walk without help.
Strokes always have severe complications for patients. It is the leading cause of prolonged disability and the first cause of severe disability among adults. The best option for rehabilitation is to trust a team of professionals who will plan an individual program to achieve the goals of recovery from a stroke, preservation of dignity and motivation.
- WebMD: Rehab After a Stroke: What to Expect
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Post-Stroke Rehabilitation Fact Sheet
- Verywell Health: Massive Stroke: Types, Recovery, and Long-Term Effects
- NHS: Diagnosis Stroke
- World Stroke Organization: Learn about stroke
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Stroke Statistics and Maps