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What Causes a Brain Attack?

For the best, most effective treatment of stroke, a person with a suspected stroke must be given immediate medical attention. It is during the critical first 3 to 6 hours following stroke that today's growing stroke therapy options have the highest curative potential. Doctors can now administer an injection of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to dissolve the clots that block blood flow to the brain. If the blockage can be removed with administration of TPA and sufficient blood flow is recovered within a three hour period following the stroke, the severity of permanent brain damage (neurological disability) is minimized or eliminated. However, medical imaging is a critical component in determining the course of stroke treatment.

Medical imaging is vital in the detection and treatment of stroke.

Important Note: Some of the methods of acute stroke diagnosis and treatment described herein are new and are still not widely available in the U.S. People who are at high risk of stroke should investigate which medical centers in their area have active stroke diagnosis and treatment capabilities. Those medical centers and hospitals with dedicated stroke treatment programs should have experience in the administration of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) or other thrombolitic and neuro-protective agents, as well as dedicated specialists and imaging protocols for diagnosing stroke and mapping the best course of therapy. Particularly in rural areas, which may not have large medical centers with the needed neurology specialists and emergency room staffing, access to these new methods of stroke diagnosis and therapy may be limited for some time (some predict it may be five years before TPA treatment of stroke becomes routine).

Updated: January 14, 2008