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Buying your brain time

AN ISCHEMIC STROKE occurs when a clot shuts off blood flow to one part of the brain. That lack of blood flow can kill brain tissue.

“A major artery is like the trunk of a tree that branches off into smaller and smaller arteries in your brain,” says Jeannie Pittenger, SCRN, MSN, Stroke Program Facilitator at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital. “The size of your stroke depends on where the blood flow shutoff is located and which parts of the brain are deprived of their oxygen-rich blood supply.”

At HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals, patients who arrive within four and a half hours can receive a clotbusting medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) intravenously.

For patients who arrive after this window or if IV tPA is not effective or appropriate, a clot-retrieval device can be used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of this device for up to 24 hours, expanding the previous treatment window of six hours. Because ischemic strokes comprise 87 percent of all strokes, this expanded treatment window is significant.

“Don’t wait to come in,” Pittenger says. “Make sure you get to the right place. If stroke symptoms are present, go to the emergency room."

Learn more about our emergency services under the “Medical Services” menu at or


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