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A Historical Account of Stroke and the Evolution of Nursing Care for Stroke Patients

Nilsen, Marci Lee

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: February 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 1 - p 19-27
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e3181c1fdad

The concept of stroke was first noted from 460 to 370 before the Common Era by Hippocrates. At this time, the symptoms of convulsions and paralysis were referred to as apoplexy. Over the next several hundred years, scholars focused on physical symptoms and potential causes. It was not uncommon for patients to be treated with enemas and bloodletting. As technology advanced, physicians and scholars began to evaluate pathophysiological changes. These changes noted by scholars such as Thomas Willis and Jakob Wepfer led to medical interventions. Nurses' main focus was to help patients cope with and adjust to their disabilities. Within the last decade, the magnitude of research has grown exponentially. The term apoplexy has faded, and the term stroke has become common place in the medical setting. This article reviews the concept of apoplexy from a historical perspective to the current concept of stroke. Research related to the present concept including classification, diagnostic testing, treatment, nursing care, and prevention is reviewed and discussed.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Marci Lee Nilsen, MSN RN, at She is a John A. Hartford Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, Pittsburgh, PA.

© 2010 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses