Emergency Stroke Care
Duke hospitals use the latest tests, medications, and procedures to treat your stroke quickly and provide coordinated care for recovery. Our goal is to minimize the negative effects of stroke, including permanent disabilities, and return you to your daily activities.
A stroke occurs when there is a problem with blood flow in or to the brain. Quickly diagnosing the type and location of the problem helps prevent death and permanent disability. To do so, Duke stroke experts use imaging techniques to see inside the brain. According to American Heart Association (AHA) clinical guidelines, brain imaging should be performed and results obtained within 45 minutes after a suspected stroke patient arrives at a hospital. Duke hospitals consistently beat this national target.
Clot-Busting Medications (Thrombolytics)
For ischemic strokes (those caused by a narrowed or blocked artery), thrombolytics -- drugs that dissolve blood clots blocking blood flow to your brain -- are the first line of treatment. AHA guidelines suggest a clot-busting medication should be given within 4.5 hours of the start of stroke symptoms. Duke hospitals do this faster than the national average of institutions reporting to the AHA. Additional medications may be prescribed later on to prevent future clotting and narrowing of the arteries.
Medications for Hemorrhagic Strokes
For hemorrhagic strokes (those caused by bleeding), the priority is stopping the bleed and finding its source. This may require drugs to lower your blood pressure or counteract blood thinners.
This type of minimally invasive surgery removes a blood clot. Specially trained neurosurgeons or radiologists insert a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel -- usually in the groin -- and guide it to the clot, which is then removed. In some cases, a tiny mesh cylinder called a stent may be placed to help prevent the artery or vein from being blocked again.
You may need surgery to repair blood vessels that were damaged by a stroke. Depending on the type of damage, your surgeon can make a small incision and operate through a catheter to repair the vessel. Other vessels may require a more invasive procedure.