Your Questions About Stroke Answered

As we follow the events occuring in Israel and keep a close eye on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health, more questions than answers are quickly developing.

I had the opportunity to interview my good friend and distinguished colleague Dr. Arno Fried, M.D., chairman of neurosurgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., regarding the cause and treatment of strokes.

Here is Dr. Fried's answer to my questions:

What is stroke?

Dr. Fried: A stroke is a disorder of blood vessels going to or in the brain. It leads to a loss of brain function and brain tissue. There are two main types of strokes. One is a blockage of a blood vessel bringing blood to the brain depriving the brain tissue of nutrients and oxygen. The second type is a hemorrhage in the brain where a blood vessel bursts causing a blood clot which damages a portion of the brain.

Can we prevent strokes?

Dr. Fried: We can control risk factors for developing a stroke. This involves not smoking, control of diabetes, control of blood pressure, good nutrition and exercise. We can also react to warning signs of a stroke and have tests done that could allow physicians to treat an impending stroke, such as with medication or surgery.

What should we or our families do if symptoms of stroke are suspected?

Dr. Fried: Sometimes there are warning signs that a stroke is developing: loss of speech, weakness of an arm or leg, or temporary loss of vision in one eye are warning signs. A prompt medical workup can sometimes lead to treatment before a stroke occurs. In addition, once a stroke develops, rapid evaluation and treatment at a stroke center can minimize the brain damage associated with a stroke.

Would you have treated Ariel Sharon any differently than his doctors have?

Dr. Fried: It is hard to say exactly what and where his stroke was in the brain, but it sounds like a very aggressive approach was taken despite a very grave situation. Most likely, after his first small stroke several weeks ago, tests were done to minimize the chance for a second stroke. The multiple brain surgeries he has undergone is an aggressive, almost heroic attempt to save his life.

Are all hospital the same in treating patients with strokes?

Dr. Fried: No. [Certain] hospitals are designated as stroke centers. This distinction is when a major medical center is capable of providing the most advanced neurologic and neurosurgical methods to treat a stroke rapidly, often within a couple of hours. A stroke center has to have these services available 24/7. Some treatments to minimize the effects of a stroke include putting catheters into the blood vessels of the brain to remove blockages in arteries as well as the ability to administer medication to dissolve blood clots.

For more information on stroke, visit Stroke

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FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., and is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. He appears on FNC's daytime programs FOX & Friends and Dayside.