Until recently, stroke treatment was restricted to basic life support at the time of the stroke and rehabilitation later. Now, several treatments options are available, and if treated early enough they can help stroke victims avoid death or disability.

  Treatment options during a stroke
Medication or Drug Therapy
Medication or drug therapy is the most common treatment for a stroke. The only drug currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ischemic stroke is a thrombolytic agent called tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA). This is often referred to as "clot buster" medication. tPA must be given within the first three hours of the first sign of a stroke. This is why it is important to seek medical help immediately!
Mechanical Therapy
Mechanical therapies to remove blood clots and restore flow are a new approach to the treatment of ischemic stroke. The FDA recently cleared the Merci Retriever, a device from Concentric Medical that removes blood clots from patients experiencing an ischemic stroke. The device is navigated into the brain using standard catheterization techniques. A small puncture in the groin is made to introduce the Merci Retriever into an artery leading to the brain. Upon reaching the targeted area, the Merci Retriever is designed to restore blood flow by engaging, capturing, and removing the blood clot.
Preventive treatment  
  • Anticoagulants/Antiplatelets - Antiplatelet agents, such as aspirin, and anticoagulants, such as warfarin, interfere with the blood's ability to clot and can play an important role in preventing stroke. Please check with your doctor before starting any medications.
  • Carotid Endarterectomy - A carotid endarterectomy is a surgical removal of plaque (or fatty buildup) from the carotid artery (an artery in the neck). This will help increase blood flow to the brain and prevent strokes.
  • Angioplasty/Stents - Doctors sometimes use a balloon angioplasty and implant steel screens called stents to treat cardiovascular disease. These mechanical devices are used to remove fatty buildup that is clogging the blood vessel.
There are also possible treatments to fix a hemorrhagic stroke. Please consult your physician to learn more.  
Rehabilitation after a stroke

Rehabilitation helps stroke survivors relearn skills that are lost when part of the brain is damaged. The types and degrees of disability that follow a stroke depend upon which area of the brain is damaged. Generally, stroke can cause five types of disabilities: Paralysis or problems controlling movement; sensory disturbances including pain; problems using or understanding language; problems with thinking and memory; and emotional disturbances.

For a stroke survivor, the rehabilitation goal is to be as independent and productive as possible. That may mean improving physical abilities. Often old skills have been lost and new ones are needed. It's also important to maintain and improve a person's physical condition when possible. Rehabilitation can mean the difference between returning home or staying in an institution.

Although a majority of functional abilities may be restored soon after a stroke, recovery is an ongoing process.