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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Recovering: Stroke

The Stroke Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers state-of-the-art care for stroke patients and their families. The goal of the Stroke Program is to help stroke patients return to a quality life outside the hospital as soon as possible by providing and coordinating needed therapies.

Most patients spend two days on the stroke unit. Depending on the condition of the patient, this stay may be shorter or longer. While in the stroke unit, patients will be connected to a heart monitor and a pulse oximeter (monitors blood oxygen levels). Vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature), fluid intake, and urine output will be monitored. Medication and fluids will be given through an intravenous (IV) line. Routine lab tests (via blood draws) will be taken. Patients that are unable to clear secretions from their mouth will be given a suction catheter at the bedside. Thigh-high stockings and a compression device (to improve circulation in feet and legs and to prevent blood clots) will be necessary.

The Stroke Program team will be available to explain and prepare patients for tests, procedures, and blood draws that are done to find the cause of the stroke and help the stroke team decide on the best course of treatment. These tests include:

  • Routine lab tests (via blood draw)
  • CT scan of the head
  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG
  • MRI/A (Magnetic Resonance Imaging/Angiography) of the head
  • Carotid Doppler (Ultrasound of the blood vessels of the neck)
  • Echocardiogram (Ultrasound of heart)

Once stable, patients are transferred to a general care neuroscience unit where vital signs will be monitored and work with the physical and occupational therapists will continue.

The Stroke Program Team

Attending Physician: a physician specializing in neurology that is responsible for directing the stroke patient's medical care. If surgery is necessary, a neurosurgeon will be involved.

Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners: advanced practitioners that have extensive training in caring for neuroscience/stroke patients.

Registered Nurses: nurses trained in caring for patients with neurologic problems will work with the stroke patient to set a plan for daily nursing care.

Research Nurse Clinicians: nurses that are responsible for coordinating participation of patients involved in clinical research trials.

Speech-Language Pathologists (Speech Therapists):

  • Speech: speech therapists will coordinate exercises to help build stronger, more coordinated muscles in the jaw, lips, tongue, palate, or vocal cords.
  • Language: speech therapists will help patients understand words, speak more clearly, write more clearly, comprehend the written language, and regain verbal and nonverbal cues of communicating (eye contact, facial expressions, and staying on topic).
  • Swallowing: speech therapists coordinate tests and work with patients that have difficulties swallowing after a stroke to determine when patients are able to eat and what foods are safest.
  • Cognition: speech therapists work with patients that have difficulties with memory, attention, problem solving, and calculation.

Physical Therapists:

  • Strength and Coordination: physical therapists work with patients that lose strength and have trouble with movement.
  • Balance, Endurance, and Functional Mobility: physical therapists work with patients on movement, balance, and gait endurance.

Occupational Therapists:

  • Occupational therapists work with patients on movement, balance, sight, and their ability to carry out tasks of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, etc.)

Pharmacists: pharmacists work with the Stroke Team physicians and nurses to tailor and monitor patient medications. If placed on blood-thinning medications, pharmacists from the Anticoagulation Dosing Service will adjust medicine based on blood levels.

Case Management: social workers will work with patients and families to find and coordinate community services to help patients return to a quality life outside the hospital. If needed, social workers coordinate home care services that include visiting nurses, physical and/or occupational therapy, and medical equipment for rent or purchase.

Dietitian: a registered dietitian will work with patients and families to review diet histories and the necessity of a special diet (low fat, low salt, low cholesterol or a soft diet for patients with problems chewing or swallowing).


Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health
1-866-662-8467 (toll free)

Information line
312-MYHEART (694-3278)

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012

Referrals &

To obtain a referral or schedule
an appointment:

Northwestern Memorial:

Northwestern Lake Forest:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Northwestern Grayslake:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Glenview Outpatient Center:

847-724-GLEN (4536)