Dr. Lama Al-Khoury specializes in clot-busting treatments and emergency interventions to save stroke victims

December 01, 2012
Lama Al-Khoury, M.D. Stroke Neurologist

As a board-certified neurologist, Dr. Lama Al-Khoury specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of stroke. Recently, she became part of the multi-disciplinary team of experts at UC Irvine’s Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center where she sees patients for stroke prevention and treats stroke patients in the acute clinical setting—soon after they begin experiencing symptoms.

“I have always been fascinated with the logical patterns and connections in the brain,” says Dr. Al-Khoury. “We can often accurately tell where a stroke is located based on what the patient is experiencing.”

UC Irvine’s Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center was the first in Orange County and among the first in the nation to be certified as a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission, recognizing it as one of America’s best-equipped treatment centers for people suffering a stroke. As of October 2009, The Joint Commission has certified more than 600 stroke centers. The center also provides specialty care through interventional radiologists.

There are two major types of strokes—hemorrhagic (bleeding) and ischemic. Ischemic strokes happen when a clot blocks the blood flow in an artery of the brain. This deprives the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients in the region of the blocked artery. Clot-busting medications given in the vein and sometimes in the artery can help dissolve the clot and open the artery in the brain—restoring the nutrient and oxygen supply to the brain. “We’re one of a few centers in the region that is able to take care of patients acutely,” says Dr. Al-Khoury. “We can deliver emergency treatment with clot-busting medications through the vein within 4.5 hours from the onset of symptoms in eligible ischemic stroke patients in addition to providing arterial interventional treatment, the latter being done by interventional radiology.”

It is very important that stroke patients get treatment right away. In fact, the sooner treatment begins after the onset of stroke symptoms, the better a patient’s chances for regaining function.

“When we give clot-busting medication early and the patient does well, we can prevent them from becoming paralyzed on one side or from losing their ability to speak in addition to preventing or improving other functional impairments,” says Dr. Al-Khoury. “In those few hours, we can give patients hope of getting the quality of their lives back and re-gaining an independent life.”

For Dr. Al-Khoury, however, preventing stroke is still the primary goal, particularly for patients who are at high risk of stroke. Individuals who have history of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease are at a higher risk for stroke. Smoking, binge drinking and illicit drug use also increases an individual’s risk.

Persons who have experienced a stroke have an increased risk of experiencing a second one. “We really need to control the risk factors and give patients the right medications to prevent a second stroke from happening in patients who have already suffered from a stroke,” she says. “Awareness, modification and treatment of risk factors is key.”

If you learn about the warning signs and risk factors for this debilitating disease, you can save someone’s life – maybe even your own. The sudden appearance of the following symptoms could signal a stroke:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, on one or both sides of the body
  • Trouble speaking whether slurring of speech or inability to express or understand language
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Confusion or altered level of consciousness

Learn more about Dr. Al-Khoury »