Common Medications and Treatments for Stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency that requires taking an ambulance to the hospital so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room. After initial treatment for stroke in the emergency room, you will need to follow up with a doctor for treatment of stroke risk factors and any complications from the stroke. This may involve changes to diet and lifestyle, exercise, medications, and/or physical or occupational therapy for disabilities resulting from the stroke.

Emergency medical treatment for stroke depends on whether it’s an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke. Treatment for ischemic stroke aims to clear the blockage in a blood vessel, whereas treatment for hemorrhagic stroke is aimed at stopping leakage of blood from blood vessels into the brain.

The tables below describe the common medications and surgical procedures used to treat stroke.

Drug Category Type of stroke How it works
Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) Ischemic
  • This medicine works by breaking up blood clots in the arteries of the brain.
  • It is injected into a vein in the arm.
  • This medicine must be given within 4 hours of the time stroke symptoms appear, if not sooner.
Anti-platelet agents Ischemic
  • These medicines help stop platelets in the blood from clumping together to form blood clots.
Anti-coagulant agents (blood thinners) Ischemic
  • These medicines work by keeping blood clots from getting larger and preventing new blood clots from forming.
Anti-hypertensive agents Hemorrhagic
  • These medicines work by lowering a person’s blood pressure.
  • They may be prescribed if high blood pressure is causing bleeding in the brain.

 

Procedure Type of stroke How it works
Carotid endarterectomy Ischemic
  • This is a surgical procedure to clear a blockage in the carotid artery, the main supply of blood to the brain.
  • The procedure involves making incisions in the neck and the carotid artery itself to remove fatty deposits that are blocking blood flow to the brain.
Carotid artery angioplasty Ischemic
  • This is a less-invasive procedure to clear a blockage in the carotid artery, the main supply of blood to the brain.
  • A tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded through the arteries to the blockage in the carotid artery.
  • Another catheter with a very small balloon on the end is pushed into the blockage and inflated to open up the artery so blood flow can resume.
  • A wire mesh tube called a stent may also be placed in the blocked area to keep the artery open.
Aneurysm clipping Hemorrhagic
  • This surgery helps prevent further leakage of blood from an aneurysm by blocking off the aneurysm from the blood vessels in the brain.
  • The procedure involves making an incision in the brain and placing a tiny clamp at the base of the aneurysm.
Coil embolization Hemorrhagic
  • This surgery helps prevent further leakage of blood from an aneurysm.
  • A tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded through the arteries up to the site of the aneurysm.
  • A tiny coil is pushed through the tube and into the aneurysm causing a blood clot to form and block blood flow through the aneurysm.
Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) repair Hemorrhagic
  • This surgery prevents further bleeding in the brain by repairing an AVM—a tangle of faulty blood vessels within the brain that can rupture.
  • This procedure may involve surgery to remove the AVM, injection of a substance into the AVM to block blood flow, or radiation to shrink the AVM blood vessels.

 

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