Stroke

Cerebrovascular disease; CVA; Cerebral infarction; Cerebral hemorrhage; Ischemic stroke; Stroke - ischemic; Cerebrovascular accident; Stroke - hemorrhagic; Carotid artery - stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack."

If blood flow is cut off for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get nutrients and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing lasting damage.

Brain

The major areas of the brain have one or more specific functions.

Carotid stenosis - X-ray of the left artery

A carotid arteriogram is an X-ray study designed to determine if there is narrowing or other abnormality in the carotid artery, a main artery to the brain. This is an angiogram of the left common carotid artery (both front-to-back and side views) showing a severe narrowing (stenosis) of the internal carotid artery just beyond the division of the common carotid artery into the internal and external branches.

Carotid stenosis - X-ray of the right artery

This is an angiogram of the right carotid artery showing a severe narrowing (stenosis) of the internal carotid artery just past the carotid fork. There is enlargement of the artery or ulceration in the area after the stenosis in this close-up film. Note the narrowed segment toward the bottom of the picture.

Stroke

A stroke involves loss of brain functions caused by a loss of blood circulation to areas of the brain. The blockage usually occurs when a clot or piece of atherosclerotic plaque breaks away from another area of the body and lodges within the vasculature of the brain.

Brainstem function

A stroke affecting the brain stem is potentially life threatening since this area of the brain controls functions such as breathing and instructing the heart to beat. Brain stem stroke may also cause double vision, nausea and loss of coordination. The brain stem also controls less essential abilities such as articulate speech.

Cerebellum - function

The cerebellum processes input from other areas of the brain, spinal cord and sensory receptors to provide precise timing for coordinated, smooth movements of the skeletal muscular system. A stroke affecting the cerebellum may cause dizziness, nausea, balance and coordination problems.

Circle of Willis

The Circle of Willis is the joining area of several arteries at the bottom (inferior) side of the brain. At the Circle of Willis, the internal carotid arteries branch into smaller arteries that supply oxygenated blood to over 80% of the cerebrum.

Left cerebral hemisphere - function

The left cerebral hemisphere controls movement of the right side of the body. Depending on the severity, a stroke affecting the left cerebral hemisphere may result in functional loss or motor skill impairment of the right side of the body, and may also cause loss of speech.

Right cerebral hemisphere - function

The right cerebral hemisphere controls movement of the left side of the body. Depending on the severity, a stroke affecting the right cerebral hemisphere may result in functional loss or motor skill impairment of the left side of the body. In addition, there may be impairment of the normal attention to the left side of the body and its surroundings.

Endarterectomy

Endarterectomy is a surgical procedure removing plaque material from the lining of an artery.

Plaque buildup in arteries

A heart attack or stroke may occur when an area of plaque (atherosclerosis) ruptures and a clot forms over the location, blocking the flow of blood to the organ's tissues.

Stroke - Series

Much of the brain is supplied blood by the internal carotid arteries.

Carotid dissection

Stroke is defined as a loss of brain function due to blocked blood circulation to the brain. Strokes may be caused by a narrowing, obstruction, or leak in the lining of the carotid. This leaking of blood into the artery wall (dissection) may cause a clot to form, reducing blood flow and raising the risk of a stroke. The leak may arise from an injury to the neck, which means stroke secondary to carotid dissection may occur in young people as well as older people.

When blood flow to an area of your brain stops, it's serious. It's called a stroke, and will often cause permanent, debilitating damage to your brain and change your life. Let's talk about strokes. If blood flow to your brain is stopped for longer than a few seconds, your brain can't get blood and oxygen. Brain cells die, causing permanent damage. There are two types, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot forms in a very small artery, or when a blood clot breaks off from another artery and lodges in your brain. Hemorrhagic strokes can happen when a blood vessel in your brain becomes weak and bursts open. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for strokes. People with atrial fibrillation, when your heart rhythm is fast and irregular, diabetes, a family history of stroke, and high cholesterol are most at risk. You are also at risk for stroke if you are older than age 55. Other risk factors include being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much salt, and smoking. Symptoms of a stroke usually develop suddenly, without warning. You may have a severe headache that starts suddenly, especially when you are lying flat, often when you awake from sleep. Your alertness may suddenly change. You may notice changes in your hearing, your sense of taste, and your sense of touch. You may feel clumsy or confused or have trouble swallowing or writing. So, how are strokes treated? A stroke is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment might save your life and reduce disability. Call your local emergency number -- or have someone call for you -- at the first sign of a stroke. Most of the time, someone having a stroke should be in the hospital within three hours after symptoms first begin. If a doctor suspects you've had a stroke, the doctor will check for problems with your vision, movement, feeling, reflexes, and your ability to understand and speak. You may have several tests to check for blocked or narrowed arteries. If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, you'll be given a clot-busting drug to dissolve the clot. Treatment depends on how bad your stroke is and what caused it. But you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few days. Besides clot-busting drugs, called thrombolytics, you may need blood thinners, medicine to control high blood pressure, and surgery to unclog one of your carotid arteries-which carry blood to the brain. After your stroke, treatment will focus on helping you recover as much function as possible, and preventing future strokes. Most people need stroke rehabilitation therapy. If you can return home, you may need help making safety changes in your home and to help you with using the bathroom, cooking, dressing, and moving around your home. After a stroke, some people have trouble speaking or communicating with others, and a speech therapist might help. Depending on the severity of the stroke, you may have trouble with thinking and memory, problems with your muscles, joints, and nerves, trouble going to the bathroom, and difficulty swallowing and eating. Therapies and support for you and your family are available to help with each of these problems. Your treatment will also focus on preventing another stroke. You may need to be on several medications to help prevent this. And, eating healthy and controlling problems like diabetes and high blood pressure can be very important.

Causes

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Treatment

Support Groups

Outlook (Prognosis)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Prevention