A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain is deprived of oxygen, causing brain cells die. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in North Carolina. See the NC Health Info page on Stroke for more information.
There are several different kinds of medical providers that can treat or help you manage a stroke. These providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized care plan.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find a stroke care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts Medicare. Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
Primary Care Providers
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, or internist. Generally, you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Since stroke is complicated, your PCP will put together a team of providers to help you with whatever stroke-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor’s referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician, is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses. A family physician will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in stroke. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints, including stroke. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services related to stroke. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and Internal Medicine as the specialty.
A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. If you experience a stroke, you will most likely see a neurologist. To locate a neurologist, use this directory by the American Neurological Association.
Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases or conditions of the heart and blood vessels—the cardiovascular system, including stroke. They receive extensive education, including four years of medical school and three years of training in general internal medicine. To locate a cardiologist, use this directory from the American Medical Association.
Thoracic surgeons focus on problems in the chest, including problems affecting the heart, lungs and windpipe. To find a thoracic surgeon, use this directory from the American College of Surgeons. Enter your zip code and then “Thoracic” in the Subspecialty text box.
Vascular surgeons treat diseases of the circulatory system. To locate a vascular surgeon, use this directory from the American College of Surgeons. Enter your zip code and then select “Vascular Surgery” from the “Specialty” drop-down menu.
Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities in patients with injuries caused by stroke. To find a physical therapist, use this directory from the American Physical Therapy Association.
Help and Support
There are many support groups, advocacy organizations, blogs, social media, and news sources to help you cope with stroke. The stroke community is made up of patients, caregivers, health care providers, and associations who offer support and share their knowledge with anyone touched by stroke. Click here to view information on online support related to stroke by the American Stroke Association. To locate a local support group near you, use this directory, also provided by the American Stroke Association.
Stroke Supplies: Information about financial assistance with stroke supplies and related health care items and services can be found at the Medicine Assistance Tool (MAT.org).
Free and Reduced Cost Clinics: Use this directory to search over 300 free and reduced cost clinics across North Carolina by location, hours of operation, insurance accepted (private, Medicaid, uninsured etc.) and type of service provided.
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Page authored by UNC Health Sciences Library Staff.