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About Stroke

During a stroke, blood vessel blockage or bleeding in the brain interferes with the systems that ordinarily provide oxygen and nutrients to brain tissue. The brain can incur damage as a result in a short period of time. Stroke treatment varies by the type of stroke, its location, severity and many other factors. Our highly trained, experienced neurosurgeons tailor their stroke treatment plans to provide each patient the best possible chance at maximum recovery.

Whenever possible, patients with a stroke should be treated by a specialized, experienced stroke team at a comprehensive stroke center like the one at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Doctors classify strokes based on their causes: either hemorrhagic or ischemic.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds. (Uncontrolled bleeding is called a hemorrhage.) When a blood vessel hemorrhages, the cells and tissues typically supplied by that vessel do not receive the oxygen and nutrients they need. In addition, the escaped blood causes pressure to build up in surrounding tissues, which may cause irritation, swelling and potentially a cascade of additional effects. Thus a hemorrhagic stroke may have both immediate and delayed consequences. About 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.

Hemorrhagic strokes can be further classified based on location:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage: Bleeding is from the blood vessels within the brain. Accounts for about 10 percent of all strokes.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding is in the subarachnoid space, in the protective membranes around the brain that contain the cerebrospinal fluid. Accounts for about 3 percent of all strokes.

Ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to an area is compromised. Without blood flow, the cells and tissues in the affected area of the brain are starved of oxygen and nutrients. About 87 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes. Most strokes result from an embolism that travels from the heart, aorta, or carotid or vertebral arteries and becomes lodged in a brain artery blocking blood flow to a region of the brain.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are sometimes called mini-strokes. They occur when blood flow is interrupted for a short time and is then restored. The symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke. In a TIA, blood flow returns before the damage becomes permanent, and the symptoms recede on their own. TIAs are sometimes called “warning” strokes, as they often indicate an increased risk of an impending major stroke.



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