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A stroke is a medical emergency where blood flow to the brain is either reduced or stopped, depriving brain tissue of essential oxygen and nutrients. A stroke may cause loss in brain function and affect movement and speech.

Rapid, effective stroke treatment

Having a stroke can affect your health in many ways, but it can be prevented and treated.

Speed matters in stroke treatment. In the Mission Health network of hospitals throughout the rural communities of Western North Carolina, our stroke doctors are not only dedicated to your care, but also to your education about healthy lifestyles and stroke risk.

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Our stroke care services

Our goal is to be there for you whenever you need us, however you need us. Stroke care is all about you, so, depending on your condition, we are prepared to treat you in the hospital or through mobile, audiovisual stroke care.

Stroke prevention

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with lifestyle changes. This is in part because heart troubles, particularly atrial fibrillation (AFib) and high blood pressure, are the leading causes of strokes. So we treat both cardiac conditions as part of our comprehensive cardiology program. We seek to educate the communities we serve about manageable lifestyle alterations that most anyone can make to help reduce future risks of having a stroke. Some of these include:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation (or avoid altogether, depending on your overall health)
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Eat lean meats (if you can eat meat)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain low cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Quit smoking
  • Take medications as they are prescribed, especially if you have Afib or have had a previous stroke incident

Understanding stroke symptoms

Wherever you are and whoever you're with, it is essential to act fast in the case of a stroke. Not everyone may be aware of the signs to watch out for, but if you learn them now, you can be prepared for a distressing situation. All you have to do is BE FAST:

  • Balance — Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  • Eyes — Is there sudden vision trouble, including blurred or double vision?
  • Face — Is one or both sides of the face drooping while attempting to smile?
  • Arms — Is one side feeling weak, numb or drifting downward when both arms are raised?
  • Speech — Is speech slurred or garbled? Can he/she repeat simple phrases?
  • Time — Call 911 for immediate medical attention if you notice one or more of these signs. Also, take note of when the symptoms began.

We understand that it is not always possible to prevent a stroke, but the more quickly you can recognize the signs, the faster our stroke specialists can provide the critical care that you or a loved one may severely need.

Types of strokes we treat

There are two types of strokes:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke — When a weakened blood vessel or aneurysm causes bleeding in the brain, adding additional pressure and causing neurological harm.
  • Ischemic stroke — When the artery that provides blood to the brain becomes blocked, depriving your brain of blood and oxygen.

These are not to be confused with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes known as a mini stroke. A TIA has stroke-like symptoms and typically only lasts a few minutes, but the key difference is that it does not cause permanent damage. While still serious, a TIA should be treated as a warning that a legitimate stroke may be coming. But it should also be treated as an opportunity to prevent a future stroke. Roughly one in three TIA's eventually lead to a stroke, with about half occurring within a year if action is not taken. If you experience what turns out to be a TIA, speak with your doctor immediately about medications and lifestyle alterations you can make to prevent future events.

Stroke treatments we provide

While most strokes are ischemic, it is important to be prepared for everything. When it comes to life inside or outside the hospital, applying common-sense stroke prevention techniques can put you ahead of the curve. However, we recognize that certain lifestyle changes may be easier for some, more than others.

Not all strokes are preventable, so if you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, our interventional neuroradiology specialists are prepared to treat you with clot-breaking medications, as well as surgery. We utilize leading-edge minimally invasive surgical procedures whenever possible, and employ treatments, such as:

  • Carotid stenting — Here, a surgeon places a thin, metallic mesh tube, called a stent, into your carotid artery, which supplies blood to your brain. Once placed, the stent expands, increasing blood flow in areas where the artery may have been clogged. This prevents future strokes.
  • Clot retrieving — If you have experienced a stroke and have not responded positively to medication, we are able to insert X-ray-guided catheters into an artery in your leg to remove clots. Once the catheter has reached the clot, a stent is inserted and blood can freely flow once more.
  • Endovascular coiling — Another catheter-based procedure, endovascular coiling begins with a catheter placed into an artery in your groin. It is then pushed through until it reaches the affected cranial artery, where tiny, soft, platinum coils shaped like a spring are deployed. These coils can block an aneurysm or stroke.

Telestroke services

Always putting the residents of our rural communities first, we are proud to have partnered with local hospitals to provide 24-hour access to our neurologists. Referred to as "telestroke care," we connect you with physicians at community hospitals through audiovisual consultations and image-sharing technology for computerized tomography (CT) scans. By utilizing our telehealth "robot" cart, which is brought into your room, one of our doctors can both view patient records and perform a video consultation in real-time, determining your course of treatment.

Based on your on-site stroke screening , emergency medical services (EMS) will determine if telestroke care or hospital transport is the best option. This could ultimately be based on current symptoms, time of onset and medications. If transportation is needed, EMS will transport you to the closest hospital for stroke treatment.

Stroke rehabilitation

Once stroke treatment has been applied and the situation is stable, rehabilitation and recovery are priority one. Recovery from a stroke is different for everyone, and we personalize our rehabilitation plans to you specifically, but what will remain the same for everyone is the goal of regaining as much independence and function as possible. This will be accomplished through one or a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapy.

It is important to know at the onset that stroke rehabilitation is an ongoing process of continuous education, physical repetition and training. We are open to work through and talk with you about any and all challenges you may be experiencing, be they physical or mental. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so please let us know if you are experiencing particularly heightened levels of anger, anxiety, confusion or depression.

Recognize and prevent a stroke

Learn how to recognize a stroke by remembering the B-E-F-A-S-T acronym. You can potentially save a life and prevent any deadly consequences.

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