Stroke Damage Therapy

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Stroke Damage Therapy

Stroke Damage Therapy  

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the part of the brain is suddenly interrupted (ischemic) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding the brain cells (hemorrhagic). 

The symptoms of strokes are easy to spot: sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; or loss of balance or coordination. 

Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood or when they are damaged by sudden bleeding into or around the brain. These damaged cells can linger in a compromised state for several hours. 

With timely treatment, these cells can be saved. Strokes are diagnosed through several techniques: a short neurological examination, blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, Doppler ultrasound, and arteriography. Strokes seem to run in some families. Family members may have a genetic tendency for strokes or share a lifestyle that contributes to strokes. 

The most important risk factors for stroke are hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cigarette smoking. Other risks include heavy alcohol consumption, high blood cholesterol levels, illicit drug use, and genetic or congenital conditions. Some risk factors for strokes apply only to women. Primary among these are pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.

Is there any treatment?

Generally, there are three treatment stages for strokes: prevention, therapy immediately after stroke, and post-stroke rehabilitation. Therapies to prevent stroke are based on treating an individual's underlying risk factors. 

Acute stroke therapies try to stop a stroke while it is happening. Post-stroke rehabilitation is to overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage. Medication or drug therapy is the most common treatment for strokes. Surgery can be used to prevent strokes, to treat acute stroke, or to repair vascular damage or malformations in and around the brain. 

For most stroke patients, physical therapy is the cornerstone of the rehabilitation process. Another type of therapy involving relearning daily activities is occupational therapy (OT). OT also involves exercise and training to help the stroke patient relearn everyday activities such as eating, drinking and swallowing, dressing, bathing, cooking, reading and writing, and toileting. 

Speech therapy is appropriate for patients who have no deficits in cognition or thinking, but have problems understanding speech or written words, or problems forming speech.

What is the prognosis?

Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. Some of the disabilities that can result from strokes include paralysis, cognitive deficits, speech problems, emotional difficulties, daily living problems, and pain.

What research is being done?

Some brain damage that results from strokes may be secondary to the initial death of brain cells caused by the lack of blood flow to the brain tissue. This brain damage is a result of a toxic reaction to the primary damage. 

Researchers are studying the mechanisms of this toxic reaction and ways to prevent this secondary injury to the brain. Scientists hope to develop neuroprotective agents to prevent this damage. Another area of research involves experiments with vasodilators, medication that expand or dilate blood vessels and thus increase the blood flow to the brain. Basic research has also focused on the genetics of strokes and stroke risk factors. 

One area of research involving genetics is gene therapy. One promising area of stroke animal research involves hibernation. The dramatic decrease of blood flow to the brain in hibernating animals is extensive enough t that it would kill a non-hibernating animal. If scientists can discover how animals hibernate without experiences brain damage, then maybe they can discover ways to stop the brain damage associated with decreased blood flow in stroke patients. 

Other studies are looking at the role of hypothermia, or decreased body temperature, on metabolism and neuroprotection. Scientists are working to develop new and better ways to help the brain repair itself and restore important functions to the stroke patients. Some evidence suggests that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), in which a small magnetic current is delivered to an area of the brain, may possibly increase brain plasticity and speed up recover of function after strokes.


American Stroke Association: A Division of the American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231-4596
Tel: 1-888-4STROKE (478-7653)
Fax: 214-706-5231

Brain Aneurysm Foundation
295 Cambridge Street
Old Forge Realty Bldg.
Boston, MA 02114
Tel: 617-723-3870
Fax: 617-723-8672

National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Englewood, CO 80112-3747
Tel: 303-649-9299 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Fax: 303-649-1328

Stroke Clubs International
805 12th Street
Galveston, TX 77550
Tel: 409-762-1022

National Aphasia Association
29 John Street
Suite 1103
New York, NY 10038
Tel: 212-267-2814 800-922-4NAA (4622)
Fax: 212-267-2812

Children's Hemiplegia and Strokes Assocn. (CHASA)
4101 West Green Oaks Blvd.
PMB #149
Arlington, TX 76016
Tel: 817-492-4325

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