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The brainstem is just above the spinal cord. It helps to control automatic roles like heartbeat, breathing, and blood pressure. This makes brainstem’s job vital. The brainstem also controls movement for the eyes and muscle movement. It also controls how you hear, talk, chew, and swallow.
A brainstem stroke happens when the blood supply to the area is stopped. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to brain tissue. When blood flow is stopped, the brain tissue quickly dies. Since the brainstem has a vital role, this damage can lead to death.
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An ischemic stroke is caused by a block of the blood flow, which may be due to:
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel. Blood spills out of the broken blood vessel and pools in the brain. This slows or stops the flow of blood and causes a build up of pressure on the brain.
Certain factors increase your risk of stroke, but can not be changed, such as:
Other factors that may increase your risk can be changed such as:
Certain medical issues can increase your risk of stroke. Proper care or preventing these issues can greatly lower your risk of stroke. Medical conditions include:
Risk factors specific to women include:
The symptoms of a brainstem stroke can be severe and may include:
If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, call for emergency medical services right away. Brain tissue without blood flow dies quickly. Early care can decrease damage.
The doctor will make a diagnosis as quickly as possible. An exam of your nervous system will be done.
Blood tests may be done. It will show blood clotting issues.
Images may be taken of the brain. This can be done with:
Your heart will also be closely checked. Tests may include:
Your kidney and liver function will also be tested to look for changes.
Immediate treatment is needed to:
The heart and lungs may need support. A tube may be placed in the to help with breathing.
For an ischemic stroke, medicine may be given to:
For a hemorrhagic stroke, the doctor may give medicine to:
Options to treat an ischemic stroke include:
A feeding tube may need to be placed later. It will help to deliver nutrients.
Brainstem strokes can lead to serious problems. Therapy will focus on recovering as much ability as possible:
Many of the risk factors for stroke can be changed. Lifestyle changes that can help reduce your chance of getting a stroke include:
American Heart Association
National Stroke Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Hemorrhagic strokes (bleeds). American Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/TypesofStroke/HemorrhagicBleeds/Hemorrhagic-Strokes-Bleeds_UCM_310940_Article.jsp. Updated April 26, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2018.
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2/7/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T566761/Prevention-of-stroke: Bushnell C, McCollough LD, Awad IA, et al. Guideline for the prevention of stroke in women. Available at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/02/06/01.str.0000442009.06663.48. Accessed November 18, 2015.
6/2/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T580145/Stroke-rehabilitation: Myint PK, Cleark AB, Kwok CS, et al. Bone mineral density and incidence of stroke: European prospective investigation into cancer-Norfolk population-based study, systemic review, and meta-analysis. Stroke. 2014;45(2):373-382.
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Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 12/11/2018