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Stroke is a medical emergency. With timely treatment, the risk of death and disability from stroke can be lowered. It’s important to know the symptoms and act in time; the first 3 hours are critical, brain cells are dying.

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About Stroke

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs either when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts, causing damage to the brain. A stroke is also sometimes called a “brain attack”. Death or permanent disability can result.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Among survivors, stroke can cause significant disability including paralysis as well as speech and emotional problems. New treatments are available that can reduce the damage caused by a stroke for some survivors. However, these treatments need to be given within three hours after the symptoms start.

Knowing the symptoms of stroke, calling 911 right away, and getting to a hospital are crucial to the most beneficial outcomes after having a stroke.

The best treatment is to try to prevent a stroke by taking steps to lower your risk for stroke.

Three Types of Stroke

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack is also known as a mini-stroke, pre-stroke, or warning-stroke.

TIA symptoms are similar to those of a stroke but don’t last as long (sometimes for a few minutes to an hour) and don’t result in lasting damage.

 A TIA is a key warning sign that the person is at risk for a major stroke and should be taken seriously.  It’s important to seek immediate medical evaluation to prevent a further stroke from occurring. 

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic strokes are the most common, making up about 83 percent of all strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot in an artery leading to the brain. There are two different types of ischemic stroke:

Thrombotic stroke: Occurs from clots that form inside a blocked blood vessel in the brain.

Embolic stroke: Occurs as a result of clots that form elsewhere in the body and travel toward the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke is less common and occurs when an artery in the brain bursts or breaks, causing bleeding in the brain.

There are two main types of hemorrhagic stroke:

An intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks blood into the brain itself.

A subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding under the outer membranes of the brain and into the thin fluid-filled space that surrounds the brain.


Clot-busting drugs, including “tissue plasminogen activators” or t-PA, are FDA-approved treatment for strokes. This drug can cure people who otherwise would be crippled, but it must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms.

 A side effect can be dangerous bleeding, so clot busting drugs cannot be used for hemorrhagic strokes or if fall or trauma occurred during the stroke.

t-PA can potentially benefit most stroke survivors. Stroke patients who receive t-PA are at least 55% more likely to have little or no disability after three months.

Less than 2 percent of stroke patients receive t-PA. Some reasons include:

Typically patients arrive 12 to 24 hours after the first stroke symptom.

Family and friends as well as bystanders who attempt to help a stroke survivor may not recognize the warning signs or the need for rapid transportation.

Stroke symptoms may be hard to identify and are often mis-diagnosed by emergency medical personnel.