What is a Stroke?

A stroke is an abrupt interruption of constant blood flow to the brain that causes loss of neurological function. The interruption of blood flow can be caused by a blockage, leading to the more common ischemic stroke, or by bleeding in the brain, leading to the more deadly hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke constitutes an estimated 87 percent of all stroke cases. Stroke often occurs with little or no warning, and the results can be devastating.

It is crucial that proper blood flow and oxygen be restored to the brain as soon as possible. Without oxygen and important nutrients, the affected brain cells are either damaged or die within a few minutes. Once brain cells die, they generally do not regenerate, and devastating damage may occur, sometimes resulting in physical, cognitive, and mental disabilities.

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 critical to successful treatment. Such technical advances 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.

Endovascular (Neurointerventional) Treatment

Neurointerventional procedures for cerebral aneurysm share the advantages of no incision made in the skull, and an anesthesia time that is often dramatically shorter than for craniotomy and microsurgical clipping.

In endovascular microcoil embolization, a needle is placed into the femoral artery of the leg, and a small catheter is inserted. Utilizing x-ray guidance, the catheter is advanced through the body’s arterial system to one of the four blood vessels that feed the brain. A smaller microcatheter is fed into the aneurysm, and once properly positioned, a thin wire filament or "coil" is advanced into the aneurysm. The flexible, platinum coil is designed to conform to the shape of the aneurysm. Additional coils are advanced into the aneurysm to close the aneurysm from the inside. This prevents flow of blood into the aneurysm by causing a clot to form on the inside.

Stroke Rehabilitation

Recovery and rehabilitation are among the most important aspects of stroke treatment. As a rule, most strokes are associated with some recovery, the extent of which is variable. In some cases, undamaged areas of the brain may be able to perform functions that were lost when the stroke occurred. Rehabilitation includes physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. This type of recovery is measured in months to years

  • Physical therapy involves using exercise and other physical means (e.g., massage, heat) and may help patients regain the use of their arms and legs and prevent muscle stiffness in patients with permanent paralysis.
  • Speech therapy may help patients regain the ability to speak.
  • Occupational therapy may help patients regain independent function and relearn basic skills (e.g., getting dressed, preparing a meal, and bathing).


Information courtesy of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons


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