What is a stroke?

what is a stroke

At first, the name “stroke” may seem familiar, but a person really begins to understand its meaning and seriousness only after it happens to them or their loved one.

A stroke is a rapid death of brain cells caused by sudden disruption of blood circulation or rupture of blood vessel, causing brain hemorrhage. The blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen to the brain, which are very important for the normal functioning of the brain. Impaired blood circulation can cause damage to brain cells in one or more areas of the brain. Because each area of ​​the brain coordinates an appropriate body function, the location of a stroke affects one or more of its functions.

There are 3 types of stroke:

Ischemic stroke (also known as cerebral infarction)

This type is caused by a sudden blockage of one or several cerebral arteries with a blood clot (thrombus). At the affected part of the brain – cells (neurons) begin to die from a lack of oxygen due to a disruption in the blood supply. This is the most common type of stroke (about 87% of total cases). Significantly less often, an ischemic stroke can be caused by a blockage in a vein (veins are vessels that drain blood from the brain), causing the brain cells to starve and die in the affected area because new blood cannot flow in due to the blocked outflow (also known as venous infarction).

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A transient or transient ischemic attack is popularly referred to as a micro-stroke is a temporary blockage of a blood vessel that does not cause permanent consequences but indicates serious health problems. The blockage usually dissolves on its own and the symptoms last for no more than 24 hours (usually a few minutes). This type of stroke is often not recognized, but it often serves as a harbinger of a “real” ischemic stroke. If the symptoms last for more than 24 hours, it turns into an ischemic stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke (also known as intracerebral hemorrhage, ICH)

This type is caused by a rupture of small caliber blood vessel within a brain matter with subsequent blood flow inside a brain matter, which puts pressure on the brain. As a result of prolonged high blood pressure, the small blood vessels inside the brain become less mechanically resilient (a process called cerebral amyloid angiopathy) and, under conditions of high blood pressure, they can rupture and cause above mentioned bleeding. A small proportion of hemorrhagic strokes develop as a result of rupture of so-called arteriovenous malformations / fistulas (AVM / F). Arteriovenous malformation is a connection between arteries and veins bypassing small blood vessels – capillaries, these blood vessels are usually less mechanically resistant, so they can rupture and cause bleedings.

Rehabilitation and after effects

The effects of a stroke depend on the type of stroke and the time it has taken for the blood supply to the brain to be restored. They can range from mild movement and balance problems to serious physical and mental disabilities. The predicted rehabilitation potential and duration of recovery depend on the type, extent, location and time factors of the stroke. Rehabilitation should begin as soon as possible after stabilization of the patient, usually 24 to 48 hours after hospitalization and may last several years.