Stroke is a medical emergency. The quicker it is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of making a good recovery. A stroke is caused by a blockage or impairment of the blood supply to the brain. This is most commonly when a clot forms in an artery in the brain (ischemic stroke) but may also be due to rupture of a blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke). 75% of strokes occur in the over 65‘s.
The management of these two types of stroke is very different; if you suffer an ischemic stroke and present to hospital quickly, it may be possible to dissolve the clot with medications or remove the clot mechanically (thrombectomy). Aggressive blood pressure management and occasionally surgery can help if you suffer a haemorrhagic stroke. Being looked after on a designated stroke unit improves your chances of survival and recovery if you have suffered a stroke. This is because our medical, nursing and therapy staff all have experience working in stroke and the ward is equipped to look after patients who need intensive neurological observation, treatment and therapy.
At Derriford Hospital we are able to provide specialist stroke care. Our ethos is to provide specialist, personalised care in a timely and efficient manner. If you suffer a stroke in Devon or Cornwall, an ambulance will take you to your local Hospital with an Emergency Department. All the local hospitals in Devon and Cornwall can provide acute stroke care. This will involve a brain scan (normally a CT scan). If you suffer a disabling stroke and you reach the hospital quickly (normally under 4.5hrs from onset of symptoms), it may be possible to dissolve the clot with a thrombolytic drug. This can be done in all of the local hospitals. If a large artery in the brain is blocked, a procedure (mechanical thrombectomy) may be attempted (see section). This can only be performed at Derriford Hospital, so you may be transferred from your local hospital to have this procedure. You will normally be transferred back to your local hospital after 24-48hrs for ongoing stroke care. Occasionally, severe strokes, particularly those caused by bleeding in the brain may require surgery to open the skull. This can also only be performed in Derriford Hospital across the region.
We offer specialist inpatient stroke aftercare. We have a dedicated stroke trained team of Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Dietitians, Pharmacists, Psychologist and Stroke Practitioners. We discuss the patients we care for in joint multidisciplinary meetings to provide holistic care. You will have specialist assessments on the Acute Stroke Unit. If you make a quick recovery you may be able to be discharged from the acute stroke unit. If you require a longer period in hospital, you will transfer to a specialist unit for further assessment, rehabilitation and/or planning of your longer term care needs.