Stroke can impact anyone of any age, and when it happens to you or a loved one you want access to excellent care right away. As the area’s first Primary Stroke Center, Gundersen offers the highest level of specialized care, whether someone has suffered a stroke, is rehabbing following a stroke or is looking to prevent one.

If someone is concerned they have risk factors that may increase their chances of having a stroke, we will look at ways to prevent a stroke from occurring. If someone experiences stroke symptoms, we provide a rapid, comprehensive evaluation once they arrive in the emergency room to determine whether they are having a stroke or a mini-stroke—known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). You can expect expert, coordinated care from the moment you or your loved one enter our doors through the stroke recovery.


Recognize a stroke by remembering to BE FAST. Every second counts when it's a stroke.

Stroke strikes suddenly! Know the signs and BE FAST.

B = Sudden loss of coordination and Balance
E = Sudden loss of vision or double vision (Eyes)
F = Weakness on one side of the Face
A = Arm or leg weakness on one side
S = Difficulty speaking or understanding Speech
T = Time symptoms started

A sudden and severe headache can be another sign.

Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these signs!

Stroke Types and Treatments

Transient ischemic attack

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a mini-stroke, but it is considered a major warning sign that a stroke could be pending. The symptoms are the same as a stroke, but usually only last a few minutes or hours. TIA is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know suffers stroke symptoms, it is essential that you call 911 right away! Patients seen for a transient ischemic attack are given a full evaluation right in our Emergency Services.

Approximately one-third of people will suffer a stroke in the year following a TIA, so knowing your risk factors and understanding how you can prevent a stroke is critical.

Ischemic stroke

Ischemic stroke is caused by a narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel that supplies the brain. The blockage prevents blood, oxygen and nutrients from getting to the brain. It is the most common form of stroke.

Treatment options

Tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) – Tissue plasminogen activator is a medication that is used to dissolve a blood clot within the first three hours following the onset of symptoms. When t-PA is given promptly, your functional outcome is better compared to those who did not receive the t-PA. Certain patients can be treated with t-PA up to four-and-a-half hours following the onset of symptoms.

Thrombectomy – Thrombectomy is a procedure to remove blood clots from arteries leading to—or in—the brain from inside the vessel. This helps your blood flow normally again.

Carotid Stenting – Carotid stenting is a minimally invasive technique that removes plaque, resulting in improved blood flow to the brain and a reduced risk of future stroke. This non-surgical option may allow for a faster recovery.

Carotid Endarterectomy – Carotid endarterectomy is a surgery that removes plaque and any damaged portions of the artery. Patients who have a carotid endarterectomy will see an improvement in blood flow to the brain and a lower risk of future stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood vessels burst, a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or leak blood into the brain, an intracerebral hemorrhage. The extra blood can put pressure on the brain and cause extensive damage to brain cells.

Treatment options

Tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) – Tissue plasminogen activator is a medication that is used to dissolve a clot within the first three hours following the onset of symptoms, though certain patients can be treated with t-PA up to four-and-a-half hours after the onset of stroke. Patient outcomes are often better when t-PA is given promptly following a stroke.

Aneurysm Coiling – During aneurysm coiling, a surgeon inserts a tiny coil into an aneurysm to help collect blood and cause it to clot. This minimally invasive procedure stops the aneurysm from leaking and prevents it from bursting again.

Surgical clot removal – Surgical clot removal is plaque removal via surgery. The surgery results in improved blood flow to the brain and lessens your risk of future stroke.

Stroke Alert

Our experienced staff knows the importance of every second when it comes to stroke care. That’s why Gundersen Health System developed a regional rapid response program called Stroke Alert. The Stroke Alert program, available 24/7, enhances collaboration with community hospitals across our service area to allow for quick and effective transfer of stroke patients to Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse from your local community hospital.

How it works
At the first signs of stroke, a local emergency medical service EMS is called and they quickly take your loved one to your local community hospital. Stroke Alert protocols begin with local emergency personnel who help streamline patient treatment and transport. After evaluating the patient, your hospital’s emergency department declares a Stroke Alert. If transport to a Primary Stroke Center (such as Gundersen) becomes necessary, one call activates a team of specialists at Gundersen to prepare for the incoming patient. Coordination immediately begins on a number of different fronts involving trained personnel who understand that time is of the essence to minimize damage to the brain and give the patient the best possible outcome. Emergency transportation is promptly arranged with air or ground crews for quick transport to Gundersen in La Crosse.

The regional Stroke Alert program uses established processes, protocols and partnerships with regional community hospitals to maximize the level of care for patients with stroke.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

Share Your Story