What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. The lack of blood supply starves the brain cells of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cell damage.
The most common type of stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood in an artery. This is called an ischaemic stroke. Sometimes a blood vessel bursts, causing bleeding into the brain. This is called a haemorrhagic stroke.
Is the stroke stress-related?
No direct link has been demonstrated between stroke and stress, but there is a relationship between stroke and high blood pressure. The aim is to achieve a systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure test) of less than 140. Lowering blood pressure lowers the risk of stroke.
What are the risks of a second stroke?
The risk of having a stroke is increased after the initial stroke but medications to make your blood less sticky (anti-platelets); lower blood pressure (anti-hypertensives); and lower cholesterol (statins) will reduce your risk. It is essential that you do not smoke. You can reduce the risk further by making other changes to your lifestyle such as doing regular (daily) exercise and eating a healthy diet.
What is Thrombolysis?
If a patient’s stroke is caused by a blood clot, they may be treated with a clot-busting drug to try to dissolve the clot and reopen the blocked artery. The sooner this treatment is given the better the chance of a good outcome. As time passes clots harden and become more difficult to dissolve. Ideally, thrombolysis should be started within one hour of a stroke but can be given up to four and a half hours. Evidence demonstrates that, where appropriate, if patients are given the clot-busting drugs within three hours of the onset of their symptoms, they will be able to recover more quickly, reduce disability and have a better quality of life. However, not all patients presenting within the time window will be eligible for this treatment, and the decision to treat will be made by a stroke consultant. They will discuss the risks and benefits of this treatment with patients and relatives.
What is Telemedicine and TeleStroke?
Telemedicine is the use of digital technology to allow hospital doctors to give a virtual assessment for stroke patients. The hospital team can call a specialist stroke clinician for advice and guidance using a video-link; this doctor can then speak to both the patient and the hospital team, and can access test results and scans to help them make a decision on treatment.
TeleStroke is a regional telemedicine service, which enables stroke patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to receive access to thrombolysis outside normal working hours. Clinicians from across the Lancashire and Cumbria take part in a rota to assess patients, review CT head scans and give advice to the hospital team via a live video link. This technology enables patients who present at their local hospital with the symptoms of stroke to receive thrombolysis therapy, even outside of normal working hours.
Where can I find more information?
More information and support for stroke patients is available from the following organisations:
- NHS UK: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Stroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- Shaw Trust: shaw-trust.org.uk
- The Stroke Association: Stroke.org.uk
- Different Strokes: differentstrokes.co.uk