Stroke Program

Our comprehensive and integrated stroke program combines the expertise of the Abbott Northwestern's Neuroscience Institute and Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to offer a complete care program. 

Services include:

  • Emergency care
  • Hospital care
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient therapy and rehabilitation 

You can access our comprehensive stroke services at Abbott Northwestern Hospital or at one of our Telestroke locations

Learn about our Telestroke program

Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center

DNV-GL certified comprehensive stroke sealAbbott Northwestern has been awarded certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by DNV GL Healthcare. Certification as a Comprehensive Stoke Center is recognition that we are able to offer the highest level of treatment and care available for stroke patients, including advanced neuro-interventional radiology, neurosurgery, and neuro-critical care services.

Learn more about stroke

See our patient education manual: Understanding Stroke

View these three videos that explain:

  • the signs of stroke and the importance of acting FAST
  • what atrial fibrillation or A-fib is, and how it can cause stroke
  • the effective treatments for stroke
When a person has suffered a stroke, that's injury to the brain because of a blockage of a vessel in the brain. Rapid assessment and treatment is key. The process usually starts either out on the field by EMS or when the person enters the doors of the emergency room in the hospital. At that time, a stroke code is activated that alerts all of the appropriate medical staff to respond. A rapid assessment then occurs. And the patient is taken straight to a CT scanner where more tests can be done. 

A CT scan is one of the first and most important tests that we do on stroke patients. There are two main reasons we get CT scans. One is to determine how much injury has occurred to the brain thus far. And two, to see if there is any bleeding in the brain, which can be important in deciding whether or not to give powerful clot-busting medications through the IV. 

Once we have determined that a person is having a stroke and is an appropriate candidate for the strong blood clot-busting medicine called tPA we then evaluate the risks and administer the medicine if deemed appropriate. Sometimes, this medicine is effective enough to stop the stroke. But sometimes, we need to move on to other interventions. And that's when our neurointerventional colleagues can take over. 

For a subset of strokes, those that are due to blockages of the largest arteries of the brain, endovascular treatment may be an option. This group of patients can include patients who are unresponsive to IV tPA or patients for whom IV tPA is not appropriate. We have a number of technologies available to us for moving blood clots in the brain. The technologies range from applying direct suction to the clot and removing it like a vacuum or mechanically extracting the clot using special devices called stent retrievers. 

Stroke is a devastating disease, but with early recognition and early treatment, it doesn't have to be. 

Today, both IV tPA and endovascular treatment are proven therapies that can improve patient outcomes if delivered rapidly.

Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, is a common cause of a stroke.  You may have recently heard a lot about a-fib and stroke on TV.

A-fib is a common heart condition that can affect adults in their later years of life.  It can be first identified when a person notices an irregular heartbeat or symptoms such as feeling lightheaded.

A-fib is a condition that causes an electrical problem in the heart that leads to an abnormal rhythm.  That abnormal rhythm is called fibrillation, a medical term for quivering, and this leads to ineffective pumping of blood through the different chambers, or atrium, of the heart.

When the heart ineffectively pumps, pooling of blood may occur in one of the chambers of the heart.  This stagnant blood can then form into a clot. Once a clot has formed in the heart, it can then be pumped into the blood stream.  If the clot enters the circulation of the brain, it will block, or occlude, a vessel and prevent blood supply to that area of the brain. 

Without the nutrition and oxygen the brain cells need, they are in danger of dying.  If blood flow is not restored a stroke will occur.  We call this kind of stroke an ischemic stroke, or a non-bleeding type of stroke. 

When someone has a-fib they will often be put on medications called anticoagulants.  These medications prevent clots from forming in the heart's atrium, helping to prevent an ischemic stroke.  It is very important that someone who has been started on one of these medications not stop the medication without a doctor’s order, because they are only effective when taken as prescribed.

Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, is a common cause of ischemic or non-bleeding type stroke.  A-fib can cause a clot to form in the heart and be pumped out into the blood stream and carried to the brain. The clot can then become lodged in a blood vessel of the brain and block the flow of blood.  

With blood flow stopped at the clot, brain tissue is unable to receive the nutrition and oxygen it needs to function.  The brain is most fragile. Of all the organs in your body, your brain is the most susceptible damage from a lack of oxygen.  In fact, 2 million brain cells can die for every minute that the brain is not getting blood it needs.

The size and severity of the stroke depends on where the clot is lodged in the brain.  Stroke can affect the face, arm, leg, speech, or vision.

It is important to recognize the early symptoms of a stroke.  We recommend learning the acronym FAST for stroke recognition. 

“F” is for Face:  have the person smile to determine if their smile is unequal. 

“A” is for Arms:  have the person hold up both arms, and see if one drifts down.   Or in severe strokes, the person may even have difficulty raising the arm up.

“S” is for Speech:  ask the person to say something.  Is their speech garbled or hard to understand?

“T” is for Time to call 911:  Note the time that the person was last known well and call 911.

If you notice that someone is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is important to call 911.  We have a number of treatments available for this kind of stroke but they are only effective in the first few hours after the stroke symptoms start. The sooner that we can start these treatments, the better the outcomes.