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What is Stroke?

At UI Health, we know every stroke is an emergency. When blood flow to the brain is disrupted, brain cells begin to die almost immediately. It's essential for treatment to begin as quickly as possible.

Our Comprehensive Stroke Center is staffed around-the-clock by expert stroke doctors, including a board-certified vascular neurologist. We provide rapid consultation for emergency stroke patients, and our door-to-treatment times are among the best in the Chicagoland area.

The Right Stroke Treatment Starts with the Right Diagnosis

Effective stroke treatment depends on the kind of stroke a person is having. Our stroke doctors can quickly perform a series of stroke diagnostic tests, including:

  • An MRI to get a picture of the brain
  • An EEG to look at brain waves
  • An angiography to map out blocked vessels or aneurysms

If the results indicate a stroke, our doctors will quickly administer the appropriate treatment.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment
Most strokes happen when blood vessels to the brain become narrowed or blocked. These are called ischemic strokes. The goal of ischemic stroke treatment is to reopen the blocked vessel. This is done with a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which must be given within 3-4.5 hours of stroke onset. UI Health will administer the tPA upon arrival in the emergency department. Additional treatments for ischemic stroke can include procedures to surgically remove clots or plaque, and sometimes placing a metal stent in a blood vessel to prop it open and prevent a second blockage.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatment
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts in or near the brain. These strokes are sometimes caused by ruptured aneurysms or abnormal clusters of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Surgery is often needed for hemorrhagic stroke treatment - to clip an aneurysm or remove an AVM. Devices called "coils" also are sometimes inserted to prevent rupture.

The UI Health team was the first in the state to coil aneurysms nonsurgically. We also are one of the few centers in the country to perform nidus embolization, a technique that cuts off the blood supply to the AVM — and which has a higher success rate than traditional procedures.

Stroke Treatment Expertise You Can Count On
Our specialists have pioneered new therapies for the prevention and treatment of stroke. From common diseases, such as hardening and blockage of the brain arteries, to more complex conditions, we have the experience and technology to provide the latest stroke care.

Know the Symptoms of Stroke

When stroke occurs, an individual may experience sudden difficulties with common functions. The most common symptoms of stroke include:

  • Confusion or difficulty understanding 
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Problems with movement or walking 
  • Seizure 
  • Severe headaches with no other known cause 
  • Vision problems, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes 
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

Less common signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden nausea, vomiting, or fever not caused by a viral illness 
  • Brief loss or change of consciousness, such as fainting, confusion, seizures, or coma