Treatment options for a stroke will depend on whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. In either case, though, emergency treatment is needed, and if you suspect that you have symptoms of stroke, it is imperative to call 911 immediately.
Medications to treat stroke may include a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which can break up blood clots in the brain’s arteries. This medicine must given within four hours after symptoms begin for it to work, and should be given as soon as possible. Other treatment options include an antiplatelet medication such as aspirin, which help stop platelets from forming blood clots, and anticoagulants, which prevent blood clots from growing and new blood clots from forming.
For patients with carotid artery disease, procedures called carotid endarterectomy and carotid artery angioplasty may be used to open blocked carotid arteries. In addition, surgeons may opt for mechanical clot removal using a device called a MERCI, which pulls the blood clot out through a catheter in the carotid artery. Stents, or tiny tubes placed into an artery to hold it open, may also be used for patients with carotid artery disease.
For hemorrhagic strokes, the use of anticoagulants or antiplatelet medications can actually make things worse. Surgery is sometimes needed to treat this type of stroke, including surgical blood vessel repair to fix certain blood vessel anomalies. This type of procedure can include surgical clipping, in which doctors place a tiny clamp at the base of an aneurysm to prevent blood from flowing to it; coiling or endovascular embolization, in which a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and guided to the brain, where tiny coils are used to fill the aneurysm and cause the brain to clot; and surgical AVM removal, in which doctors can remove an arteriovenous malformation if it’s located in an accessible part of the brain.