Diagnosing and Treating Stroke

If you're experiencing a stroke, you need to see a doctor right away. If a stroke is diagnosed quickly-right after symptoms start-doctors may be able to use medicines that can help you recover better.

The first thing the doctor needs to find out is what kind of stroke it is: ischemic or hemorrhagic. This is important, because the medicine given to treat a stroke caused by a blood clot could be deadly if used for a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.

There are two types of stroke:

  • An ischemic (say "iss-KEE-mick") stroke happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The clot may form in the blood vessel or travel from somewhere else in the blood system. About 8 out of 10 strokes are ischemic strokes. They are the most common type of stroke in older adults.
  • A hemorrhagic (say "heh-muh-RAW-jick") stroke develops when an artery in the brain leaks or bursts. This causes bleeding inside the brain or near the surface of the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but more deadly than ischemic strokes.

How is a stroke diagnosed?

You need to see a doctor right away. If a stroke is diagnosed quickly-right after symptoms start-doctors may be able to use medicines that can help you recover better.

The first thing the doctor needs to find out is what kind of stroke it is: ischemic or hemorrhagic. This is important, because the medicine given to treat a stroke caused by a blood clot could be deadly if used for a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.

To find out what kind of stroke it is, the doctor will do a type of X-ray called a CT scan of the brain, which can show if there is bleeding. The doctor may order other tests to find the location of the clot or bleeding, check for the amount of brain damage, and check for other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to a stroke.

Stroke Treatments

Our stroke team uses the latest medical technology and techniques to diagnose stroke, along with minimally invasive treatments such as:

Clot-busting medicine

Special medicine (tissue plasminogen activator or tPA) can be used to treat ischemic stroke, but it can only be used within 4.5 hours of when symptoms begin. It’s delivered through an IV in your arm.

Clot removal (thrombectomy)

A neurologist or neurosurgeon who specializes in endovascular treatment can remove a blood clot using a catheter (small, flexible tube) to guide a clot-retrieving device. Your doctor performs the procedure through a tiny incision.

Reopening narrowed arteries

A neurointerventionalist can restore blood flow by compressing plaque buildup against the walls of an artery or placing a stent (mesh tube) in the artery to improve blood flow.

Embolizing procedures

An endovascular specialist (a neurologist who specializes in image-guided procedures) can use a catheter to: 

  • Deliver medicine that clots the blood 
  • Close off a broken vessel
  • Place a rupture-prevention device (such as a coil) in a vessel to prevent stroke

If your condition can’t be treated with a minimally invasive procedure, our expert neurosurgeons can perform even the most complex neurosurgery to restore blood flow. You’ll receive the most advanced care in our neurointensive care unit. The unit is specially designed for people with brain and spine conditions, and it’s the only one of its kind in mid-Missouri.