Stroke Treatment

A Leader in Advanced Stroke Care

Time is critical for stroke patients. When seconds count, rushing to an advanced stroke center with the technology and capability to care for you can make a difference in how you recover. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is one of the stroke centers in California with an experienced team of medical specialists who are committed to attending to the critical needs and helping improve the outcomes of stroke patients.

Our local interventional neurology team is on-call around the clock to provide an endovascular approach in treating stroke cases in San Luis Obispo County, drastically improving treatment time and helping minimize brain damage. You can expect an advanced level of stroke care the moment you arrive at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.

What exactly is a stroke?

A stroke is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to die from lack of oxygenated blood.

There are two major kinds of stroke:

  • Ischemic Stroke – This is the most common type of stroke. It is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel or artery in the brain. This clot causes a region of the brain to be deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients leading to death of brain cells.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type of stroke is caused by a blood vessel breaking and bleeding into the brain. Two types of weakened blood vessels that typically cause hemorrhagic stroke are aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).
    • Brain Aneurysms – This occurs when a blood vessel develops a weak area in the wall that allows the vessel to balloon out and fill with blood.
    • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) – AVMs happen when a group of blood vessels in your body forms incorrectly. In these malformations, arteries and veins are unusually tangled.

Why do people experience a stroke?

The reason why people get strokes depends on what kind of stroke they have. However, the risk factors of having a stroke include the following:

  • Prior Medical Conditions
    • High blood pressure – Also called hypertension, this can cause ischaemic stroke due to a clot because high blood pressure damages the blood vessels and makes it stiffer and narrower. High blood pressure can also cause hemorrhagic stroke due to a bleed because it can weaken blood pressure which can lead to a leak or burst.
    • Heart disease – This includes damaged heart valves and atrial fibrillation. The fatty deposits from heart disease may also cause a stroke.
    • Diabetes – This damages blood vessels which increases a person’s risk for a stroke.
  • Lifestyle
    • Smoking – Nicotine raises blood pressure, cigarette smoke causes fat buildup and smoking thickens the blood, which poses a higher risk for blood clots.
    • Weight and exercise – Being overweight increases the risk of having a stroke. Regular exercise like walking or muscle-strengthening exercises can help lower a person’s risk of a stroke.
  • Other risk factors
    • Medications – Blood thinners, hormone therapy and low-dose estrogen might heighten the risk of having a stroke.
    • Age – Anyone can have a stroke, but chances of having one increase as you age.
    • Gender – Men are slightly more likely to have a stroke than women.
    • Family history – Sometimes, stroke runs in the family. It can be caused by a history of hypertension or diabetes or a genetic disorder.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

During a stroke, there is loss of blood flow to the brain. Symptoms of a stroke can be shown in the body parts controlled by the damaged areas of the brain. Common symptoms are as follows:

  • Paralysis
  • Weakness
  • Trouble speaking and understanding speech
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Vision problems
  • Trouble walking/loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Severe, sudden headache with unknown cause

Stroke Treatment

Stroke requires immediate medical help. This can help prevent brain damage, long-term disability and death. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center – San Luis Obispo has endovascular stroke treatments led by our specialized stroke response team. Stroke treatments vary according to what kind of stroke we’re treating.

For ischemic stroke, the treatment/s might be as follows:

  • Medications
    • Antiplatelet and anticoagulants – Should be taken within 24-48 hours after the onset of symptoms. The most common is over-the-counter aspirin.
    • Clot-breaking drugs – Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is considered the gold standard in ischemic stroke treatment. It breaks up blood clot within the brain if administered 3-4.5 hours after the onset of symptoms.
  • Surgery
    • Stents – This is a procedure performed to inflate the narrowed artery and support the artery wallst.
    • Mechanical thrombectomy

What is mechanical thrombectomy?

When it comes to stroke, “Time is Brain.” That’s because there is a small window of time for treatment to be effective. Most strokes are caused by blood clots plugging a blood vessel or artery in the brain. Previously, the only medical intervention available to treat ischemic stroke in San Luis Obispo County was tPA. tPA works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain that is being deprived of blood flow. With the addition of mechanical thrombectomy, physicians at Sierra Vista are now able to directly remove these clots more quickly and effectively than tPA alone.

With mechanical thrombectomy, trained physicians in the stroke unit of Sierra Vista can thread a catheter through an artery in the groin up to the blocked artery in the brain and remove a large blood clot with a stent retriever. Both tPA and mechanical thrombectomy need to occur within a few hours to be effective and improve chances for stroke survival and recovery. The use of mechanical thrombectomy at Sierra Vista essentially eliminates the need for emergency air transport out of the area.

For hemorrhagic stroke, the treatment might be as follows:

  • Medications – Unlike ischemic stroke treatment, the goal of hemorrhagic stroke treatment is to make your blood clot. Medications that counteract blood thinners might be prescribed as well as medications to lower blood pressure.
  • Surgery
    • Coiling – The doctor inserts a tube in the area of hemorrhage and installs a coil like device to stop the bleeding.
    • Clamping – This procedure is performed when there is an aneurysm that hasn’t bled yet or that has stopped bleeding. For prevention of bleeding, a clamp is placed in the aneurysm site to cut off blood supply.

Act FAST

Use the National Stroke Association’s F.A.S.T. test to help you remember the warning signs and symptoms of stroke:

  • Face (Facial drooping) – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms (Arm weakness) – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech (Speech problems) – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
  • Time – If a person is having trouble with these basic commands, call 911 immediately.

If you experience any sign of stroke, or identify the signs in someone else, act F.A.S.T. and dial 911.

More Information