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A stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted. There are a number of different kinds of stroke, as the cause of blood supply to the brain being restricted or stopped can vary. Stroke is a serious medical condition and help should be sought immediately if one is suspected.

Different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions, such as movement, sensory perception, thinking and feeling. When a stroke occurs, it will depend which area of the brain is affected and how large the stroke is in assessing what long and short term symptoms might be. Every stroke is different. Each person affected by stroke will have different symptoms and needs.

The warning signs for stroke are remembered using the acronym FAST, which stands for:

Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms – Can they lift both arms?
Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time is critical – If you see any of these signs or suspect that you or someone else may be having a stroke, call triple zero (000) straight away and ask for an ambulance.

When it comes to treating a stroke, time is critical. The faster an ambulance is can be accessed the better the chance of minimising symptoms and long term disability.

  • Stroke is the second leading cause of death after heart disease

  • More than 80% of strokes can be prevented

  • Stroke is the largest cause of disability in Australia

Causes and treatment

There are a number of risk factors for stroke. Some, like getting older or having a family history cannot be controlled. There are also a number of medical risk factors that cannot be avoided, such as irregular heartbeat and other heart conditions, or diabetes. There are also a number of lifestyle factors that have been linked to stroke, which are controllable and can greatly increase your chances of experiencing a stroke. They are:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet and lack of excercise
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

If you feel you are at a high risk of stroke, consult your GP.

Treatment immediately after a stroke involves taking multiple tests to identify the kind of stroke that has occurred, and is then followed by the administering of medication. This medication will either work to break down the blockage that is obstructing the blood flow, or will thin the blood. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery and minimal long term effect.

Long term treatment can involve rehabilitation to help regain physical independence, and talk therapy or counselling to deal with ongoing lifestyle changes that may have occurred.

How the Florey is making a difference

The Florey dedicates significant resources to studying stroke - from the basic science through to public health, rehabilitation and epidemiology. Investigations into neuroprotective and neuroregenerative drugs, advancing stroke care and predicting further incidence of stroke through biomarkers and imaging are part of our ongoing work. We are also involved in expanding stroke diagnosis services through telemedicine technology and examining the use of early rehabilitation and exercise to improve recovery from stroke.

Clinical trials

Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU): A brand new, first-in-Australia dedicated stroke ambulance operating in Melbourne's metropolitan area, with a dedicated onboard brain scanner and specially trained stroke paramedics and nurses.

STOP-MSU: Examining whether transhexamic acid might reduce bleeding in haemorrhagic (burst blood vessel) strokes

MR CLEAN: This trial was stopped early due to its spectacular success showing that pulling a blood clot out of the brain improved health outcomes (reduced death and disability) following ischemic (blocked blood vessel) stroke

EXTEND-IA: This trial aims to look at whether the current four and a half hour window for the clot-busting  treatment alteplase can safely and effectively be extended to nine hours, which would increase the number of patients able to access this life-changing intervention.

EXTEND-IA TNK: This trial aims to determine if an alternative, fast acting, clot-busting therapy, tenecteplase, can be used instead of alteplase. 

Support and information

If you suspect a stroke call 000 immediately. For further information contact the Stroke Foundation on 1800 787 653.

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