Stroke - Treatment Overview

Emergency treatment

Ischemic stroke

Measures will be taken to stabilize your vital signs, including giving you medicines.

  • If your stroke is diagnosed soon enough after the start of symptoms, you may be given a clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), which can increase your chances of recovery.
  • You may also receive aspirin or another antiplatelet medicine.
  • In some cases, a procedure may be done to restore blood flow. The doctor uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter) and a tiny cage to remove the blood clot that caused the stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Treatment includes efforts to control bleeding, reduce pressure in the brain, and stabilize vital signs, especially blood pressure.

  • To stop the bleeding, you may be given medicine or a transfusion of parts of blood, such as plasma. These are given through an IV.
  • You will be closely monitored for signs of increased pressure on the brain. These signs include restlessness, confusion, trouble following commands, and headache. Other measures will be taken to keep you from straining from excessive coughing, vomiting, or lifting, or straining to pass stool or change position.
  • If the bleeding is due to a ruptured brain aneurysm, surgery to repair the aneurysm may be done. For more information, see Surgery.
  • In some cases, medicines may be given to control blood pressure, brain swelling, blood sugar levels, fever, and seizures.
  • If a large amount of bleeding has occurred and symptoms are quickly getting worse, you may need surgery to remove the blood that has built up inside the brain and to lower pressure inside the head.


Preventing another stroke

Your treatment will also focus on preventing another stroke. This may include:

  • Reducing high blood pressure, the most common risk factor for stroke, by making changes to your diet and taking medicines that lower blood pressure.
  • Taking aspirin or another antiplatelet medicine to prevent strokes. For more information, see Medications.
  • Controlling diabetes. Your doctor will advise you to try to keep your blood sugar levels in a target range. To do this, you may need to take insulin or other diabetes medicine. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will also help.
  • Getting a flu shot every year to help you avoid getting sick from the flu.

You may also need to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, and being more active. For more information, see Prevention.

If your carotid arteries are significantly blocked, you may need a procedure to reopen the narrowed arteries. For more information, see Surgery and Other Treatment.

Tips for a successful recovery


Starting a rehab program as soon as possible after a stroke increases your chances of regaining some of the abilities you lost.

It's not possible to predict how much ability you will regain. The more ability you retain immediately after a stroke, the more independent you are likely to be when you are discharged from the hospital.

  • Walking: People usually show the greatest progress in being able to walk during the first 6 weeks. Most recovery occurs within the first 3 months. But you may continue to improve slowly over the next few years.
  • Speech, balance, daily skills: Speech, balance, and skills needed for day-to-day living return more slowly and may continue to improve for up to a year.
  • Communication, judgment: About half of the people who suffer a stroke have problems with communication, judgment, or behavior that affects their work and personal relationships.


If your doctor wants to find out how the stroke has affected your ability to reason, concentrate, or remember, you may have neuropsychological tests.

Your rehab will be based on the physical abilities that were lost, your general health before the stroke, and your ability to participate. Rehab begins with helping you resume activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, and dressing. For more information, see the topic Stroke Rehabilitation.

If you are someone whose loved one has had a stroke, you can play an important role in that person's recovery by providing support and encouragement.

Long-term care

If you get worse, your loved ones may need to move you to a care facility that can meet your needs, especially if your caregiver has his or her own health problems that make it difficult to properly care for you.

It is common for caregivers to neglect their own health when they are caring for a loved one who has had a stroke. If your caregiver's health declines, the risk of injury to you and your caregiver may increase.

Stroke: Should I Move My Loved One Into Long-Term Care?

Palliative care

Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit.

You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness. You can also have it if treatment to cure your illness no longer seems like a good choice.

Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.

If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.

For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.

End-of-life care

A time may come when treatment for your illness no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.

For more information, see the topics:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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