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Compiled and edited for public service by Conrad David Brillantes (More...)

This could happen to you! Stroke could occur when a blood cloth travels to the brain, interrupting the supply of blood and the oxygen it caries to the nerve cells that could die or stunned parts of the body they control due to lost of manipulation. Blood clot may rupture a vessel that supplies the blood to the brain…bleeding may also cause a stroke. Call emergency when the following happens: 1. Sudden weakness, numbness or tingling in the face, arm or leg, transpires.  2. Sudden temporary loss of speech or trouble understanding speech. 3. Sudden loss of vision, particularly in one eye, or double vision. 4. Sudden severe and unusual headache. 5. Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs. Please do not wait and gamble someone’s life, call 911 immediately.  

THE DEFINITION: A stroke is when the blood supply to any part of the brain is interrupted, resulting in tissue death and loss of brain function.  

Alternative names
Cerebrovascular disease; CVA; Cerebrovascular accident

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The brain requires about 20% of the body’s total circulation of blood. The blood enters the brain from two carotid arteries in the neck, which branch off into multiple arteries that supply each specific area of the brain.

If blood flow in any of these arteries is interrrupted for longer than a few seconds, brain cells can die, causing permanent damage. The resulting stroke-related symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected, the extent of the damage, and the cause of the stroke.

Common symptoms include changes in vision, speech, and comprehension; weakness; vertigo; loss of sensation in a part of the body; or changes in the level of consciousness.

Stroke accounts for 1 out of every 15 deaths in the United States. It is the 3rd leading cause of death in most developed countries, and the leading cause of disability in adults. The risk doubles with each decade after age 35. Stroke occurs in men more often than women.

The risk of stroke is increased by smoking, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and heart disease. Rarely, strokes may happen in women on birth control pills -- the risk is increased if a woman also smokes and is older than 35. Women have a higher risk of stroke during pregnancy and the weeks immediately after pregnancy. Other illnesses such as vasculitis, lupus, or high blood viscosity may contribute to stroke.

The most common cause of stroke is atherosclerosis. (See stroke secondary to atherosclerosis.) Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty deposits and blood platelets collect on the wall of the arteries, forming plaques. Over time, the plaques slowly begin to block the flow of blood. A plaque may block the artery enough to cause a stroke, or it may trigger a blood clot that causes a stroke.

The formation of a plaque does not always lead to a stroke. The arteries are large enough that 75% of the blood vessel can be blocked, and there will still be adequate blood flow to that area of the brain. Furthermore, there are many small connections between the arteries in the brain. If the blood flow is gradually blocked in one artery, these small connections will increase in size and "by-pass" the obstructed area. Even a totally blocked artery may not cause a stroke.

A stroke may be caused by a blood clot that forms in the brain (a thrombus) or a blood clot, piece of plaque, or other material that travels to the brain from another location (an embolism). Bleeding (hemorrhage) within the brain can, on rare occassions, cause symptoms that mimic stroke.

A stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain (a thrombus) is most common in older people, and often there is underlying atherosclerosis or diabetes. This type of stroke may occur at any time, including at rest. The person may or may not lose consciousness.

Strokes caused by embolism (a blood clot that travels to the brain) are most commonly caused by heart disorders. An embolism may also originate in the aortic arch, especially where there is atherosclerotic plaque. The blood clot travels through the bloodstream and becomes stuck in a small artery in the brain. This stroke occurs suddenly with immediate, maximum damage to the brain. Consciousness may or may not be lost.

Embolic strokes are NOT associated with activity levels and can occur at any time. Arrhythmias of the heart, such as atrial fibrillation, are often seen with with this type of stroke and may be the cause of the clot. Other causes of embolic stroke include endocarditis (an infection of the heart valves), or a mechanical heart valve that may have a clot attached to it. A heart attack puts people at greater risk for having an embolic stroke.

The probable outcome is worsened if blood vessels damaged by stroke rupture and bleed (hemorrhagic stroke).

Here's the latest news from BBC Medical report article published on June 24, 2006


US researchers discover plant extracts, which are used in heart failure, may have benefits in early treatment of stroke. A compound called neriifolin, which comes from the yellow oleander, was found to be significantly protective against neurons in the brain that otherwise would have died.

Stroke patient with paralysis of the hands

Stroke can cause paralysis

US researchers have discovered a group of plant extracts that may have benefits in early treatment of stroke. Cardiac glycosides, compounds which include heart drug digoxin, were found to protect rat brain tissue against the lack of blood which occurs in stroke. The study published in the National Academy of Sciences may help scientists develop new treatments. Many drugs thought to have protective effects after stroke have been tested but as yet none have been effective. The researchers from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina screened a large number of small compounds for neuroprotective activity by testing them on slices of rat brain deprived of oxygen and glucose.

Using the test - which is designed to mimic stroke in the brain - a compound called neriifolin which comes from the yellow oleander was found to be significantly protective against neurons in the brain that otherwise would have died. Neriifolin appeared to show neuroprotective properties even if given several hours after the brain tissue was starved of oxygen and glucose. Although they hadn't initially been identified in the screening test, the researchers hypothesised that several other compounds related to neriifolin would also protect brain tissue against ischaemic injury. They tested digoxin and digitoxin - which come from the foxglove and have both been used for several decades in the treatment of congestive heart failure and arrhythmia - and ouabain in a mouse model. Although not as potent as neriifolin, all of the plant extracts had a neuroprotective effect.

Clinical trials

The researchers said as cardiac glycosides are already in use, it could speed up the process towards clinical trials. Dr Donald Lo, Director of the Center for Drug Discovery, at Duke University, said: "It's always a helpful stroke of luck when you find something that already has clinical usage because we know many things about dosage and side-effects." He added that finding the activity of the compounds in the rat model was the very first step. "The aim of this study was to survey as many different drug targets as possible because the last 50 to 100 that have been tested have not fared well in clinical trials." He added: "It was surprising because this is a class that is generally toxic." A spokesperson for the Stroke Association said: "The researchers are correct in identifying the failure of many compounds that have shown the potential to protect neurons between the stage of animal model testing and clinical trials, and it is welcome to have other compounds to investigate. "The advantage of this group of compounds is that they have been in clinical use for other conditions over many years, and we therefore know a great deal about the possible doses and side effects. "The negative side is that these drugs have effects on the heart that will certainly limit the doses that could be given, and it has been the case with other neuroprotectant drugs in the past that cardiac side effects have meant that insufficient amounts of drug to protect the brain cold be given safely. "[This model] might be useful as a means of identifying candidate drugs in the future. "However, the difficulty usually arises not in identification of possible neuroprotectant molecules but in their successful translation into clinical trials, and our track record speaks for itself. "Over the past 15 years there have been dozens of molecules that have gone as far as clinical trials involving tens of thousands of patients after showing great promise in animal studies, yet we still have no drug of this class that is effective."

See also

Stroke prevention involves controlling the risk factors. Treat hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and other associated disorders. Reduce or stop smoking. A low-cholesterol, low-salt diet may be appropriate if the risk factors include atherosclerosis or hypertension. Exercise more.

The treatment of TIA can prevent some strokes.


Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

Note: Specific changes in brain function (neurologic deficits) depend on the location and amount of injury to the brain. The symptoms are typically on one side of the body but may be isolated to specific functions, may involve one side of the body and the opposite side of the face, or may involve the face only.

Signs and tests
In diagnosing a stroke, the way the symptoms develop is important. The symptoms may be severe at the beginning of the stroke, or symptoms may progress or fluctuate for the first day or two (stroke in evolution). Once there is no further deterioration, the stroke is considered a complete stroke.

The exam will look for specific neurologic, motor, and sensory deficits, because these often correspond closely to the location of the injury to the brain. An examination may show changes in vision or visual fields, abnormal reflexes or abnormal extent of "normal" reflexes, abnormal eye movements, muscle weakness, decreased sensation, and other changes. A "bruit" (an abnormal sound heard with the stethoscope) may be heard over the carotid arteries of the neck. There may be signs of atrial fibrillation.

Tests may determine the location and cause of the stroke and rule out other disorders that can cause the symptoms:

This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:

A stroke is serious condition. Immediate treatment is required. The treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms. For virtually all strokes, hospitalization is required, possibly including intensive care and life support.

There is no known cure for a stroke. The treatment involves rehabilitation (based on the symptoms) and prevention of future strokes. Recovery may occur as other areas of the brain take over functioning for the damaged areas. The goal of treatment is to prevent the spread of the stroke and to maximize the patient’s ability to function.

Life support and coma treatment are performed as needed.

A number of medications may be used. RTPA is a medicine that lyses the clot and potentially restores blood flow to the affected area to prevent cell death and permanent damage. However, there are strict criteria for who can receive RTPA -- most important is that the stroke victim be evaluated and treated by a specialized stroke team within 3 hours of onset of symptoms. It is a controversial medication because there is a risk of serious bleeding.

In appropriate circumstances, other anti-coagulants such as heparin and coumadin are used to prevent recurrent strokes. Aspirin and other anti-platelet agents are used to prevent strokes as well.

Analgesics may be needed to control severe headache. Anti-hypertensive medication may be needed to control high blood pressure.

Nutrients and fluids may be neccesary, especially if the person has swallowing difficulties. The nutrients and fluids may given through an intravenous tube or a tube in the stomach (feeding tube or gastrostomy tube). Swallowing difficulties may be temporary or permanent.

Surgery may be appropriate in some cases, including surgical removal of blood clots from the brain.

Carotid endarterectomy, removal of plaque from the carotid arteries, may help prevent new strokes from occurring in some people.

The recovery time and need for long-term treatment vary. Depression and other symptoms should be treated.

Speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, positioning, range of motion exercises, and other therapies may prevent complications and promote maximum recovery of function. People should stay active within their physical limitations.

In some cases, urinary catheterization or bladder/bowel control programs may be necessary to control incontinence.

The individual’s safety must be considered. Some people with stroke appear to have no awareness of their surroundings on the affected side. Others show a marked indifference or lack of judgment, which increases the need for safety precautions. For these people, friends and family members should repeatedly reinforce important cues, like name, age, date, time, and where they live, to help reduce disorientation.

Communication may require pictures, demonstration, verbal cues, or other strategies, depending on the type and extent of language deficit.

In-home care, boarding homes, adult day care, or convalescent homes may be required to provide a safe environment, control aggressive or agitated behavior, and meet physiological needs.

Behavior modification may be helpful for some people in controlling unacceptable or dangerous behaviors. This consists of rewarding appropriate or positive behaviors and ignoring inappropriate behaviors (within the bounds of safety).

Family counseling may help in coping with the changes required for home care. Visiting nurses or aides, volunteer services, homemakers, adult protective services, and other community resources may be helpful.

Legal advice may be appropriate. Advance directives, power of attorney, and other legal actions may make it easier to make ethical decisions regarding the care of the person with organic brain syndromes such as stroke.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in developed countries. The outlook depends on the cause and extent of damage. Of those who survive a stroke, many have long-term disabilities, but some recover most or all function.


Calling your health care provider
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of a stroke. Stroke requires immediate treatment.

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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 vein or ulceration in the area after the stenosis in this close-up film. Note the narrowed segment toward the bottom of the picture.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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



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