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Saint Anthony Hospital is a Primary Stroke Center

At Saint Anthony Hospital we provide quality care so you can achieve the best possible recovery after a stroke.  From the moment you arrive with stroke symptoms to the moment you leave our team works hard to build a treatment plan to meet your individual needs. Our stroke program, with telestroke technology through Northwestern Memorial Hospital, has been certified by the Joint Commission. 

Patients have access to specialists 24/7 for the acute diagnosis and treatment of strokes inside our emergency department by an on-site neurologist or through telestroke technology.  Telestroke provides patients with access to stroke specialists from Northwestern —including board-certified neurologists experienced in the diagnosis and management of stroke—without having to leave the ED, at a time when every second counts.  Our stroke program allows Saint Anthony to provide more advanced levels of care to the community, as close to home as possible.

What is Stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain suddenly stops.  Your brain cells need oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood.  When blood flow is stopped to the brain, the brain tissue dies from lack of oxygen.  When a stroke happens, brain cells begin to die within minutes. 

The brain controls many parts and functions of your body and the effects of a stroke depend on where in the brain the stroke occurred. 

Warning signs of a Stroke

Call 911 immediately if you or someone around you has any of these warning signs  Recognize the signs of stroke so you can act F.A.S.T. and save lives.

  • Face: Can the person smile, has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms: Can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time: Act FAST!  Get help.  Call 911

Three kinds of strokes

Transient ischemic attack (TIA): TIAs or mini-strokes are often a warning sign that a more severe stroke is going to occur.  TIAs can have many possible causes, all of which require medical attention and treatment. 

The goal of TIA management is to prevent a future stroke. The medicines and treatments used depend on the exact cause of the TIA. Possible causes could be high blood pressure, an irregular heart rhythm, hardening of the arteries, a blockage of the artery that supplies blood to the brain, rupture of a blood vessel, and head or neck injuries.

A TIA does not cause any long-lasting disabilities but is often a warning sign that a large stroke is going to occur. Approximately one-third of people who have a TIA go on to have a more severe stroke within a year.

Ischemic stroke:  Strokes can occur when blood vessels to the brain become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits called plaque, cutting off blood flow to brain cells. A stroke caused by a lack of blood reaching part of the brain is called an ischemic stroke. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for ischemic strokes that you can change. Types of blockages caused by blood clots:

  • Thrombotic Stroke: This is the most common type of stroke and is caused by plaques and fat that builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. A blood clot then forms. The clot completely blocks or lessens the flow of blood to the brain. Symptoms may occur days or weeks before blood flow to the brain is changed. Sometimes these symptoms come and go and are then called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. A TIA or mini-stroke is equally as important to pay attention to. Embolus: An embolus is a blood clot that is formed elsewhere in the body, usually the heart or neck arteries. If it breaks loose, it is carried by the blood towards the brain until it blocks the blood flow to the brain. 
  • Embolic Stroke: This type of stroke is caused when a clot forms somewhere else in the body  (heart, legs, and lungs) and travels through the blood. The clot gets stuck in the brain. An embolus is a traveling clot. Symptoms are seen quickly and may be followed by other clots producing more strokes.

Hemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain either leaks or breaks. This not only injures the nerve tissue but also surrounding areas as well. Symptoms often begin slowly and get worse quickly. Cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, and the use of illegal drugs increase the risk of bleeding in the brain.

Intracerebral Hemorrhage: The most common type of hemorrhagic strokes which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds or ruptures into the tissue deep within the brain. These are most commonly cause by chronic high blood pressure or aging of the blood vessels.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: An aneurysm is an abnormal weak spot in an artery wall that causes a bulge or balloon to form. When an aneurysm on or near the brain ruptures and bleeds into the space between the brain and skull it is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. These are also caused by high blood pressure. It is common for a thunderclap headache (a headache that starts in less than a minute and is extremely severe) to occur with these strokes.

What to expect in the hospital

Our goal is to treat patients as quickly as possible to improve the likelihood they will have a positive outcome after their stroke. 

  • We will do tests to see if you had a stroke or if there are other medical problems.
  • If you had a stroke, we will find out the type of stroke and decide how to treat it.

Based on the patient’s diagnosis, they may be admitted into the hospital or if they are in need of neurosurgery, they will be transferred to Northwestern. 

There are a few tests that your doctor will likely order.  These include:

Computed tomography (CT) scan:  A non-invasive medical test that uses special x-ray equipment to produce multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body and a computer to join them together in cross-sectional views of the area being studied. CT scans of internal organs, bone, soft tissue and blood vessels provide greater clarity than conventional x-ray exams. 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):  Uses a computer, magnetics and radio waves to make images of the body. It can be used for all parts of the body and aids in getting a quick and accurate diagnosis.

Carotid Doppler Study: The carotid arteries are on either side of your neck and send blood to the brain. This is a type of study that uses a microphone to listen for blood flow to find any blood clots.

Echocardiogram: This test uses a microphone and sound waves to look inside your heart. Some people have an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation that may cause blot clots to form in your heart. These clots can travel to your brain, causing a stroke.

Labs: Depending on the medication you are taking we may want to check a blood level called INR. If you are taking medications known as anticoagulants, this lab can help us determine if your medication is working at the level we want it to. 

Not all patients need all of these tests.  And some tests may be done again during your hospital stay. 

Stroke Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a very important part of recovery for most stroke survivors. The rehabilitation process varies, and the degree and rate of recovery is different for each individual. As this process takes place, many stroke patients experience some recovery of lost abilities. Most patients generally recover at a faster rate within the first three months after having a stroke and can continue to improve for years. While rehabilitation doesn’t always reverse the effects of a stroke, it plays an important role in your recovery and helps build your physical strength, relearn skills, and rebuild confidence so you can resume your daily activities.

Your rehabilitation will start as soon as your doctor determines you are well enough to undertake and benefit from rehabilitation. It usually begins in the acute care hospital where you first began your recovery. From there, depending on your needs you may go to a rehabilitation hospital or skilled nursing facility. If you are able to return home from the acute care hospital, rehabilitation services may continue in your home or at an outpatient facility.

Rehabilitation can be a long process, requiring a team approach that may include family, friends, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech/language pathologists, social workers, and others. The members of the Stroke/Rehabilitation team are committed to your recovery and helping you to regain as much independence as possible. Please do not hesitate to ask any member of the team for help at any point during your recovery. 

For more information about Saint Anthony Hospital’s outpatient rehabilitation services visit Rehabilitation Services.