Neurological disorders and stroke treatments in Anchorage, Alaska

Neurological care at Alaska Regional Hospital is a team of specialists caring for disorders and injuries of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Our treatments range from medication to complex surgical procedures. We work to educate and help patients about their condition. When needed, we help patients recover or learn to live with their condition as much independence and mobility as possible.

If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Care for brain and central nervous system disorders

Our neuroscience program offers technologically advanced methods of treating conditions such as concussions, stroke and aneurysms. We combine neurological expertise and high-quality patient care to provide treatment options previously unavailable in Alaska.

For more information about our neurological services, or to find a specialist, call our 24/7 Consult-A-Nurse® line.

Conditions we treat

Alaska Regional physicians treat a variety of neurological conditions. From a mild headaches to complicated skull fractures we are ready for many conditions including:

  • Concussions — Injuries caused when the brain is jarred or shaken violently within the skull. Concussions may or may not cause unconsciousness. If unconsciousness occurs, concussions may last for a few seconds to a prolonged time, resulting in a coma.
  • Cranial aneurysms — An abnormal bulging or ballooning due to a weakness in an artery wall supplying blood to the brain. The aneurysm can enlarge putting pressure on brain tissue or nerves. It can also leak or rupture.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage — Refers to bleeding in the space between the brain and the thin tissues that cover the brain. This thin space is called the subarachnoid space. Subarachnoid hemorrhages can result from ruptured brain aneurysms, use of blood thinners, motor vehicle accidents and falls.
  • Subdural hematoma — Occurs when there is bleeding in the skull that causes compression of brain tissue. Acute hematomas fill the brain with blood quickly, compress brain tissue and cause potential brain damage and even death. Chronic subdural hematomas may take days or weeks for symptoms to appear. The condition is life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention.

Diagnostic exams and services we offer

Alaska Regional's doctors use a variety of neurological exams and treatments to care for patients. We offer traditional open surgeries and minimally invasive surgical procedures.

Diagnostic testing and imaging

Our diagnostic exams and imaging help our neurology doctors evaluate patients and create treatments. Diagnostic procedures include:

  • Computed tomography scans (CT scans) — test that uses computerized horizontal images — slices— to form a highly detailed image of the brain and nervous system
  • Electroencephalogram test (EEG test) — test that measures the electrical activity of the brain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) — a procedure to make images of the brain using powerful magnets
  • Specialized ultrasound — a procedure using sound waves to form an image of the brain and spinal fluid

Minimally invasive treatments

Alaska Regional surgeons perform minimally invasive and traditional open surgeries including endovascular neuroradiology, one of the latest techniques in neurosurgery. This group of surgical procedures may be beneficial for patients with central nervous system disorders especially strokes and aneurysms.

Endovascular neuroradiology may reduce pain and intracranial swelling. Other advantages may include shorter hospital visits, reduced infection risks, and improved recovery outcomes. Alaska Regional performs several minimally-invasive procedures including:

  • Arterial venous malformation embolization — This is a procedure performed to prevent blood vessels from rupturing, which can cause stroke or damage to spinal tissue. Through a catheter in the groin, the physician injects various materials into the abnormal blood vessels to completely close them and prevent ruptures.
  • Carotid stenting — This procedure involves inserting a stent into the patient’s carotid artery, a major artery of the head and neck that supplies blood to the brain. The stent expands, thereby increasing blood flow in areas blocked by plaque.
  • Endovascular aneurysm coiling — A neurosurgeon uses this treatment to thread a catheter into the affected cerebral blood vessel and position a microcatheter inside the aneurysm to treat it from within. Small platinum coils are placed to redirect the flow of blood away from the aneurysm.
  • Intracranial stenting — This is a treatment from within the brain for a narrowing artery. During the procedure, a catheter is threaded from the thigh to the diseased blood vessel and a stent, or small metal tube is placed inside to return the vessel to its normal size and to support artery walls.

Advanced neurological care

Our neurologists and neurosurgeons are prepared for complicated conditions. We have specialized teams that care for patients who experience stroke symptoms and traumatic brain injuries.

Stroke care

The Primary Stroke Center at Alaska Regional is the state’s first certified stroke center and the first to earn The Joint Commission's Gold Seal. Our stroke center is dedicated to minimizing the impact of stroke and other neurological conditions.

After our emergency room (ER) stabilizes a stroke patient, we use the most advanced technology available in diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. according to Brainline.org. Stroke affects someone in this nation every 40 seconds and it claims a life every four minutes.

Recognizing stroke symptoms

When brain cells are affected by a stroke, the abilities controlled by that area are lost. This may include speech, movement and memory. The faster you receive treatment the better. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T. to be aware of stroke signs.

  • F – facial weakness – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?
  • A – arm or limb weakness – Ask them to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • S – speech difficulty – Ask them to repeat a simple sentence. Do they sound strange or do they slur their speech?
  • T – time is ticking – If any of these symptoms are present, call 911 for help fast.

Stroke treatment and rehabilitation

A quick medical response can lower the risk of death and disability from stroke. Although, certain medications and treatments like the "clot-busting" drug (tPA) must be started within a set number of hours from the onset of symptoms.

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion refers to damage to the brain from incidents such as vehicle accidents, falls, violent blows to the head or sports injuries. According to Brainline.org, 2.8 million people in the U.S. sustain TBI injuries and of those injuries, 50,000 die.

Because of the potential consequences of these injuries, anyone who experiences a blow to the head, even a minor one, should be watched carefully and evaluated by a physician. Alaska Regional’s ER specialists, concussion doctors and neurosurgeons work closely together to ensure quick and effective responses to traumatic brain injury cases. Traumatic brain injury can result in a range of symptoms, including:

  • Cognitive problems like confusion and agitation
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities

Traumatic brain injury diagnosis and treatment

Depending on the problem, our concussion specialists have access to a number of examinations to help create traumatic brain injury treatment plans, including CT scans, EEGs and ultrasounds.

Our emergency specialists ensure adequate blood and oxygen supply to the brain and minimize the effect of bleeding or inflammation. If there is a risk of convulsions, anti-seizure drugs may be administered.

Our neurosurgeons may perform procedures to create an opening in the skull to allow accumulated blood or other fluids to drain, relieve pressure on the brain, remove clotted blood or repair skull fractures.

Traumatic brain injury rehabilitation

Patients with traumatic brain injury most likely will require a rehabilitation program to regain cognitive and motor skills. Our rehabilitation program brings together the services of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and other medical specialists to help recover their living and mobility skills.