Stroke, the third leading cause of death in the U.S., is an abrupt interruption of constant blood flow to the brain that causes loss of neurological function. It can be cause by a  blockage, leading to a more common ischemic stroke, or a brain bleed, leading to the more deadly, but less common, hemorrhagic stroke. Stroke often occurs with little or no warning, and the results can be devastating.

After a stroke, blood flow and oxygen must be restored to the brain as soon as possible. Without oxygen and important nutrients, the affected brain cells either become damaged or die within minutes. Once cell death happens, they generally do not regenerate,  sometimes resulting in physical, cognitive and mental disabilities.

Ischemic Stroke

  • Thrombotic stroke is the most common type of ischemic stroke. A blood clot forms inside a diseased or damaged artery in the brain resulting from atherosclerosis (cholesterol-containing deposits called plaque), blocking blood flow.
  • Embolic stroke is caused when a clot or a small piece of plaque formed in one of the arteries leading to the brain or in the heart, is pushed through the bloodstream and lodges in narrower brain arteries. The blood supply is cut off from the brain due to the clogged vessel.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A TIA is a warning sign that a stroke may happen and is treated as a neurological emergency. Common temporary symptoms include difficulty speaking or understanding others, loss or blurring of vision in one eye, and loss of strength or numbness in an arm or leg. Usually these symptoms resolve in less than 10-20 minutes and most always within the hour of the occurrence.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding that occurs in the space between the surface of the brain and skull. A common cause of subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke is a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, an area where a blood vessel in the brain weakens, resulting in a bulging or ballooning out of part of the vessel wall.
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage is bleeding that occurs within the brain tissue most often due to changes in the arteries caused by long-term hypertension.

Although they are more common in older adults, strokes can occur at any age. Understanding the factors that increase your risk of a stroke and recognizing the symptoms may help you prevent a stroke. Receiving early diagnosis and treatment may improve your chances for complete recovery.

Stroke Treatment

Rehabilitation following a stroke may involve a number of medical specialists; but the early diagnosis of a stroke, its treatment or its prevention, can be undertaken by a neurosurgeon. Rapid and accurate diagnosis of the kind of stroke and the exact location of its damage is crucial to successful treatment.

Technical advances such as digital imaging, microcatheters and other neurointerventional technologies, the use of the operating microscope (microsurgery) and the surgical laser have made it possible to treat stroke problems that were inoperable a few years ago.