Stroke Recovery and Treatment Guide

By Barb Hicks

Stroke treatment and recovery involves IV medications in the beginning, and oral meds during the recovery phase of rehab. Initial goal is to restore blood flow and begin the recovery process. It is important to get medical treatment preferably within 3 hours. An undiagnosed stroke can lead to severe brain damage and even death.

Embolus and thrombus are the two most common types of blood clots that cause a stroke. An embolus describes a piece of a blood clot that has broken free and traveled to other areas of the body. A thrombus is a blood clot that forms inside the artery and does not move.


The role of medication is to restore blood flow to the cells. Some meds are used to dissolve clots, and others work to prevent cells from adhering to each other, which result in the formation of a blood clot.

Tissue Plasminogen Activator ( tPA): Is a clot busting medication given through an IV line, administered within 3 hours of symptom onset. It works by breaking down the fibrin strands, and can only be given for ischemic strokes.

Antiplatelet Meds: Prevent platelet cells from adhering to each other. Aspirin Aggrenox Plavix: Is an antiplatelet to slow clotting time. Aggrenox and Plavix replace aspirin when it is contraindicated. The inhibition of clotting can lead to severe bleeding episodes, and is a side effect of using these drugs.


Heparin Warfarin (Coumadin)

Anticoagulants are used to prevent blood clots from forming in the heart due to atrial fibrillation. However, they do come with some risk of side effects including hemorrhage and bruising.

For those on anticoagulants, Vitamin K intake must be monitored. The body requires Vitamin K for its natural ability to clot; therefore this vitamin can affect the ability of Heparin and Coumadin to work properly. Green vegetables are where vitamin K is commonly found and while you don't need to give them up, your doctor may need to monitor you or adjust your medication.


Once a patient is stable they will be released from the hospital to either a rehab facility, home and outpatient therapy or home where therapy can commence. There is no set timeframe for recovery and treatment. It can last six months or longer and is a lifelong endeavor for the patient.

Family members must be ready to adjust to the changes in lifestyle that are bound to occur. In addition, the patient and care giver must have time to settle into a routine in order to make the lifestyle changes much less traumatic. In addition, changes to the living environment may also need to be made including hand rails in the bathroom and wheelchair ramps.

If the patient is bed ridden, a hospital bed may be necessary. Special beds will help to prevent the incidence of decubitus ulcers from forming on the bony prominences of the body such as the elbow, heels, and pelvis bones. To prevent ulcers, make sure the patient is turned on to the left side and right side, alternating sides, propped on pillows every 2 hours. This is very important not only to prevent bed sores, but prevention of pneumonia as well. Elevating the feet to keep heels free from any type of pressure will prevent ulcers in this area.

Skin breakdown can become very serious in a short amount of time. - 30540

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