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(Cerebrovascular Accident; CVA; Cerebral Infarct)
by Debra Wood, RN
Stroke is a brain injury caused by an interruption in blood flow. Brain tissue that does not get oxygen and nutrients from blood can die within minutes. The damage to the brain can cause a sudden loss in bodily functions. The types of function that are affected will depend on the part of the brain that is damaged.
There are two blood flow problems that cause a stroke. Strokes may be ischemic or hemorrhagic.
This stroke occurs when something stops the flow of blood. It may be due to:
A blockage in a small blood vessel will affect a smaller area of the brain. A blockage in larger blood vessels can block the flow of blood to several smaller blood vessels. This will lead to more severe brain damage.
Risk Factors TOP
Certain factors increase your risk of stroke but cannot be changed, such as:
Other factors that may increase your risk can be changed, such as:
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of stroke such as:
Risk factors specific to women include:
Symptoms occur suddenly. Exact symptoms will depend on what area of the brain is affected.
Call for emergency medical services right away if you notice any of the following sudden symptoms:
A physical exam will be done. The doctor will look for muscle weakness, visual and speech problems. If possible, the doctor will be ask about your symptoms and medical history.
Images of your brain may be taken with:
Blood tests may also be done. It will show if there is a bleeding problem.
Brain tissue without blood flow dies quickly. Rapid treatment will open the blocked blood vessel. This will help to restore blood flow and decrease damage.
Treatment after immediate care will aim to:
Supportive care may also include:
Thrombolytics may be used. The care team will needs to deliver it within hours of the start of symptoms. This medicine can rapidly break up blood clots. It is often given by IV. It may also be delivered directly to the blood clot. It is not appropriate for everyone.
To help manage other health issues and decrease the risk of future strokes the doctor may recommend medication to:
An embolectomy may be an option. A tube is passed through blood vessels to the clot. The tube can be used to remove a blood clot or deliver medicine. The medicine will break up the clot.
A stroke can cause severe swelling of the brain. This swelling can place pressure on the brain and cause more damage. A decompressive surgery, such as craniotomy, can relieve this pressure.
Other surgeries may be performed after a stroke to prevent another one. Options include:
If brain tissue was damaged, rehabilitation can be an important part of your recovery. Rehabilitation may include:
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
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Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/9/2018
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