A stroke is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else has stroke symptoms, think Fast and call 999. Ambulance paramedics are trained in stroke and will take you to the best hospital for specialist treatment.
There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year. That's around one stroke every five minutes. But no two strokes are the same, which means there is no set pattern for recovering from one. It also depends on the type of stroke you have and the stroke services that are available in your area.
How well you recover and how long it takes is also different for everyone, but making sure that you receive treatment quickly will give you the best possible chance of making a good recovery.
You may start off in accident and emergency or another assessment ward, but it's likely that you will be quickly admitted to an acute (or hyper-acute) stroke unit.
When you first arrive at the hospital, you will need to have tests to confirm that you have had a stroke and make sure that you receive the right emergency treatment. The quicker your stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better your recovery will be.
Brain scans and tests
It's likely that you'll need to have a number of scans and tests to confirm whether you have had a stroke and rule out other conditions.
You should have a brain scan as soon as possible after your stroke. For people with acute stroke this should be within an hour of arriving at hospital. The scan can be:
- a computed tomography or CT scan, which is an x-ray of the brain to show doctors which part of the brain has been damaged, and whether the damage was caused by a clot or a bleed.
- a magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan, which is taken in a large tunnel-shaped scanner that uses waves to produce more detailed image of blood vessels in the brain.
The results of your brain scan will help your doctors to identify what may have caused your stroke and ensure you get the right emergency treatment.
Other hospital tests
There are a number of other tests that you may receive during your first few days in hospital. These will be to find out more about what caused your stroke, or to see what effects it has had. These are some of the tests you may undergo:
- Blood pressure test: these should be taken as soon as you get to hospital. They reveal if your stroke may have been caused by high blood pressure, and whether you may need medication to help lower it.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG): can show if an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation may have caused your stroke. Atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of stroke, but can also be managed with medication.
- Blood test: this will check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels and check for clots.