Stroke Treatment

Stroke treatment depends on many factors. How much time has passed since the stroke began? Is the stroke ischemic or hemorrhagic? Does the patient have any stroke risk factors or health conditions that may affect treatment? Depending on the answers to these questions, stroke treatment may include blood-thinner medication to dissolve a blood clot, or brain surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel.

Stroke treatment must be administered quickly to minimize brain tissue damage and prevent disability or death. Many people wait too long to report heart attack symptoms; similarly, many people wait hours and even days before seeking medical treatment for stroke symptoms. The sudden onset of stroke symptoms should be treated as an emergency. Seeking medical attention immediately is not overreacting. Rather the opposite is true — a prompt call for emergency services could save a life.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment

Ischemic stroke treatment often includes blood thinner medication. The blood thinner prevents the clot from getting larger and helps restore blood flow to the brain, reducing tissue damage. Blood thinner medication, as well as antiplatelet medication, is also used as blood clot prevention treatment, and may be used for stroke prevention in those who are at high risk for a stroke.

In some cases, standard blood thinner medication may not be enough to dissolve a blood clot. Instead, thrombolytic medication may be used. The most promising blood clot-dissolving drug is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which may be used with carefully selected patients. tPA is only effective as stroke treatment if administered within the first few hours of a stroke. Unfortunately, only three to five percent of stroke victims seek medical treatment within this time frame.

If an artery leading to the brain is narrowed by seventy percent or more of its capacity, an endarterectomy may help restore blood flow. An endarterectomy is a surgical procedure in which the inner lining of the artery, including the plaque build-up is removed. This procedure is completed through an incision in the neck. The goal is to restore as much blood flow as possible to the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatment

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood vessels rupture and bleed into the brain. Blood thinner medication should not be administered to hemorrhagic stroke patients: a blood thinner will increase blood flow and worsen stroke damage. Instead, brain surgery may be required to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure inside the skull.

When an aneurysm causes the stroke, a brain surgeon may insert a metal clip at the base of the aneurysm. The clip prevents further bleeding. If the cause of stroke is an AVM cluster

Another procedure for treating an aneurysm is endovascular surgery, which is minimally invasive brain surgery. A catheter transports a “coil” to the aneurysm or ruptured blood vessel. Once in position, the coil expands, blocking the rupture and stimulating blood clot formation. This seals off the rupture from surrounding blood vessels.


Prevention is the best possible stroke treatment. Many stroke risk factors can be modified with lifestyle changes, so taking an active role in reducing risk factors can help prevent strokes. Practicing stroke prevention has other health benefits — many aspects of stroke prevention also reduce the risk of heart attack, hypertension, and diabetes.

Stroke Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation begins after acute stroke treatment. Rehabilitation may be needed to relearn skills lost due to a stroke or to learn ways of compensating for a disability caused by a stroke. Stroke rehabilitation may include:

  • emotional rehabilitation
  • language rehabilitation
  • memory rehabilitation
  • motor control rehabilitation
  • sensory rehabilitation.



American Stroke Association. (nd). Treatments. Retrieved February 17, 2004, from:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2003). Stroke: Treatment. Retrieved February 17, 2004, from: 821670F1635148