Treating Stroke: Explained

A serious, life-threatening emergency requiring immediate medical intervention, a stroke is a disruption of blood flow in the brain.

Damaging brain cells by depriving them of their blood supply, the task for health care providers becomes reestablishing blood flow as quickly and as safely as possible.

McLaren Health Care has established the statewide McLaren Stroke Network to provide stroke-trained interventional neurology experts’ evaluation and care within minutes of suspected-stroke patients’ arrival to an emergency department.

To decide which interventional procedure will most effectively treat the patient, care teams proficient in stroke must first fully diagnose the patient by determining the type of stroke he or she is experiencing and confirm its location within the brain.

Types of strokes


The most common type of stroke — responsible for 87 percent of all strokes — an ischemic stroke occurs when plaque or a blood clot blocks a blood vessel, obstructing blood flow.


Caused by a rupture in the blood vessel, most often stemming from a growing aneurysm and high blood pressure, bleeds from a hemorrhagic stroke also increase pressure within the brain and on brain cells.

Diagnosing strokes

Health care professionals can diagnose a patient’s stroke based on their symptoms — difficulty walking, speaking, and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness in the face, arm, or leg. A severe, sudden headache and trouble seeing out of one or both eyes are also common.

The type of stroke and its location can be confirmed through imaging modalities, specifically a CT scan or MRI, and physicians may choose to use contrast dye to provide a more precise image.

Treating strokes


A combination of procedures may be used to reestablish the blood flow interrupted by a clot.

An intravenous “clot-busting” medication, tPA, can be administered if it is given within four-and-a-half hours of the onset of symptoms. This medication can only be used in ischemic stroke treatment as the medication could worsen the bleeding resulting from a hemorrhagic stroke.

Specialized and stroke-trained interventional neurologists may also choose to remove the clot through a minimally invasive procedure — a thrombectomy — if the clot is located in one of the brain’s larger blood vessels. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into an artery, often in the groin, and tunneling it to the brain along with a device capable of capturing and removing the clot.


To control the bleeding and lower the brain pressure from a hemorrhagic stroke, medications are administered, and patients are closely monitored, often in a hospital’s intensive care unit. When effective, medications lower blood pressure, lower the pressure in the brain, and prevent blood vessel spasms and seizures.

If the bleed is affecting a large area of the brain, neurologists and surgeons may choose a surgical option to remove the blood and repair the ruptured blood vessel.

Risk factors & prevention

The 80 percent of strokes that were preventable refer to addressing stroke risk factors — a list of common and, more importantly, treatable conditions that increase the probability of a patient suffering a stroke.
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

In the United States, one in three adults live with at least one of these conditions. Address these treatable risk factors by discussing them with a primary care physician and developing a treatment plan.

B.E. F.A.S.T.

Know the symptoms of stroke so they can be spotted, recognized, and immediately acted upon. Remember to 'B.E. F.A.S.T.'


Sudden loss of balance and/or coordination


Sudden blurred or double vision, or sudden vision trouble


Facial droop on one side of the face


One-sided arm weakness or numbness, or one arm drifting downward when held straight out


Slurred and/or garbled speech, or difficulty repeating simple phrases


Recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone near you? Do not hesitate — dial 911 immediately for prompt medical attention.


Address your stroke risk factors

Make an appointment with a McLaren primary care provider to lower your risk for stroke.

Click here

Stroke care at McLaren Health Care

Learn more about the state-of-the-art capabilities of the McLaren Stroke Network.

Click here