Stroke Diagnosis & Treatment

When it comes to stroke care, you probably have a lot of questions and want to learn as much as possible about what to expect. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we offer expert emergency stroke care in all our hospitals’ Emergency Services departments. Our highly skilled stroke teams are specially trained to stop—or even reverse—the effects of stroke.

Every second counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate medical treatment can help minimize any brain damage and prevent lasting effects.

Know the signs of a stroke: BE FAST

  • Balance, coordination loss or dizziness
  • Eye, vision changes or vision loss
  • Facial drooping
  • Arm that drifts or won’t lift
  • Slurring or difficulty speaking
  • Time to call 911 (also, note the time the symptoms start so you can tell the paramedic)

If you or someone else is experiencing any of these signs, don’t wait! Call 911 immediately.

Diagnosing a stroke

Doctors will rule out other conditions with symptoms similar to a stroke and may perform a number of diagnostic tests:

Treatment for a stroke

When someone is having a stroke, every second counts. It’s a medical emergency that requires immediate care to prevent lasting effects. That’s why it’s important to call 911 right away if someone shows signs of a stroke.

Emergency care for stroke intervention

At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, stroke experts in all our hospitals’ Emergency Services departments are ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to offer immediate, lifesaving care for people having a stroke. Whenever a stroke patient enters one of our Emergency Services departments, our expert “code neuro” team mobilizes immediately.

Those needing a higher level of care, depending on the location and nature of the stroke, will often be treated by a neurointerventional radiologist in a sophisticated interventional suite or a neurosurgeon in an operating room equipped for neurosurgery. Both types of doctors have years of advanced training within their specialty areas.

For people with ischemic stroke (blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain), we work to open the vessel by:

  • Dissolving the clot with medications such as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), administered intravenously into a vessel, most often in the arm
  • Delivering tPA or other clot-busting medications directly to the clot inside the brain via a catheter (thin flexible tube)
  • Removing the clot using endovascular procedures in which physicians thread a catheter through an artery to reach the blood clot in the brain. Once inserted into the catheter, a clot-retrieval device captures and pulls the clot from the vessel into the catheter.

For hemorrhagic stroke (blood vessel that ruptures in the brain) and aneurysm (bulge in an artery wall), we find and control the bleeding by:

  • Blocking the aneurysm using advanced endovascular procedures in which neurointerventional radiologists use a catheter to “coil” thin mesh wire inside the aneurysm
  • Inserting stents into the artery to redirect proper blood flow in an endovascular procedure
  • Clamping the aneurysm to prevent further bleeding or bursting using open surgery and performed by a neurosurgeon

After a stroke: ongoing care

We offer stroke recovery care, including ICU-level care, that features staff who are highly trained and experienced in stroke recovery. A dedicated Neuro Intensive Care Unit (ICU) located at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, provides intensive care for patients following stroke intervention treatment.

After recovering in the Neuro ICU and other neuro-dedicated units, our patients may stay in our nationally accredited rehabilitation unit for additional care before going home. We offer inpatient rehabilitation services, including therapy services and education.