Intermountain Medical Center

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What is a stroke?

A stroke is when blood flow to part of your brain suddenly stops. It can happen because of a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or because a blood vessel in your brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Your brain cells need oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood, so when a stroke happens, brain cells begin to die within minutes.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a "mini stroke", can cause some of the same symptoms as a stroke, but is temporary and doesn't cause permanent damage. But a TIA is a warning sign, that often happens before a stroke and should not be ignored. If you think you've had a TIA, talk with your doctor.

What are the signs and symptoms?

If you have any of these signs and symptoms, call 911 immediately. During a stroke, every second counts. Remember to B.E. F.A.S.T.! 

B: Balan​ce - Sudden dizziness or loss of balance or coordination 
E: Eyes - Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes 
F: Face - Sudden numbness or weakness of the face (Does one side of your face droop?) 
A: Arm - Sudden numbness or weakness of an arm or leg (Does one arm drift downward?) 
S: Speech - Sudden difficulty speaking (Are the words slurred? Is speech confused?) 
T: Time – Time the symptoms began (When was the person last seen looking or acting normally?)

Learn more about stroke from Intermountain's Patient Education Library:

Treatments during and after an ischemic stroke

  • Intra-venous (IV) tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is medication that can quickly dissolve a blood clot so it stops blocking the blood flow to your brain. This “clot-busting” medication is put into your blood vessel in the first few hours after stroke symptoms appear. For tPA to have the best chance to work, it's vital to get to the hospital as soon as possible after stroke symptoms occur — every second counts. (As there are some risks to tPA, your doctor will help you understand if this medication is right for you.)
  • Intra-arterial tPA is a procedure that puts tPA directly into the blood vessel that has a clot. A doctor inserts a small catheter (tube) into an artery, usually in your groin, and threads it to the problem area. Medication is then delivered at the site of the clot. 
  • Clot retrieving devices can remove a clot from a blocked blood vessel. A doctor inserts a catheter into your blood vessel through the skin in your groin. The catheter has a special device on the end. The doctor guides the catheter up through the blood vessel until it reaches the blood clot that’s blocking blood flow to your brain. There the doctor uses the device to get the clot, removing it from your brain as the catheter is pulled back out the way it came.

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