Medication to treat stroke
Jeremy Payne, MD, PhD, is a neurologist, board certified in stroke care and is medical director of the Stroke Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. His office can be reached at (602) 839-6533.
Question: I’ve heard that if you get to the hospital soon enough after having a stroke they can give you medicine to reduce the damage. Is this true and how long do you have?
Answer: Yes, there is medicine that can be used to treat and minimize damage caused by stroke; however it must be given within several hours of onset in order to be effective and safe. Therefore, it is incredibly important to be proactive and seek immediate medical attention when stroke occurs.
Since the signs and symptoms of stroke often are not as obvious as the symptoms of something like a heart attack, we and those around us must be able to recognize the symptoms and act fast.
Like a house fire that causes continued damage the longer it is left to burn and smolder, the damaging, debilitating and disabling effects of stroke can increase the longer it takes to stop and treat it. The reality is that we only have a few hours in which to administer tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a medicine to break up the blood clot(s) causing a stroke and, ultimately, minimize the impact.
While tPA can only be given within the first few hours of the onset of a stroke, its benefits are undeniable. In fact, people who receive tPA are twice as likely as others to have good outcomes.
In addition to administering tPA, larger hospitals, particularly those classified as comprehensive stroke centers, can offer other state-of-the-art stroke treatments. One such treatment entails opening up clogged arteries in the brain to stop a stroke, which is similar to how a cardiologist opens arteries in the heart to stop a heart attack.
Stroke is the No. 1 one cause of adult disability and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are many complications of stroke that must be addressed immediately. If you suspect that you or someone around you is having a stroke, don’t waste time. Call 9-1-1 immediately and do not attempt to drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. Emergency medical responders are trained and know which hospitals are best equipped to care for stroke patients.
As with virtually all medical conditions, there are certain risk factors that can increase one’s chances of having a stroke. StrokeCheck events, held every May as part of Stroke Awareness Month, give Phoenix area residents a unique opportunity to meet with health care professionals who are trained in stroke prevention, care and treatment. Through questionnaires, screening tests and evaluations, these free community events help attendees weigh their individual risk for stroke.
The American Stroke Association provides in-depth information about stroke symptoms, risk factors, prevention and treatments. The site also shares impactful videos that serve to highlight the signs and urgency of stroke.