Home > Health A – Z > Stroke

Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident)

A stroke occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die after a few minutes. Sudden bleeding in the brain also can cause a stroke if it damages brain cells.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

About Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke)

A stroke occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die after a few minutes. Sudden bleeding in the brain also can cause a stroke if it damages brain cells.

If brain cells die or are damaged because of a stroke, symptoms occur in the parts of the body that these brain cells control. Examples of stroke symptoms include sudden weakness; paralysis or numbness of the face, arms, or legs (paralysis is an inability to move); trouble speaking or understanding speech; and trouble seeing.

A stroke is a serious medical condition that requires emergency care. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 right away. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving... Read more about Stroke

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Stroke Rehabilitation: Long Term Rehabilitation After Stroke [Internet]

The aim of this guideline development group was to review the structure, processes and interventions currently used in rehabilitation care, and to evaluate whether they improve outcomes for people with stroke. Such studies are complex and research methodologies need to be robust. Evaluation of clinical effectiveness needs studies that have robust theoretical underpinnings, capture changes that are relevant to the treatment evaluated and reflect what is important to patients, and be large enough to allow reliable data interpretation. This guideline reviews some of the available interventions that can be used in stroke rehabilitation, and highlights where there are gaps in the evidence. It is not intended to be comprehensive.

Anticoagulants for preventing stroke in patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and a history of stroke or transient ischaemic attack

Anticoagulants are beneficial and safe for preventing a second stroke in people with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and recent cerebral ischaemia. Nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation (NRAF) is a heart rhythm disorder commonly found in patients who have had a stroke. Patients with NRAF have an irregular heart beat and this can cause the formation of a blood clot in the left atrium of the heart . This clot may break away and block a cerebral artery causing a stroke. Patients who have had a stroke in the presence of NRAF have a high risk of another stroke. Anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin, make the blood 'thinner' and prevent the formation of blood clots and hence could prevent stroke. However, anticoagulant drugs may also cause bleeding in the brain and this complication could offset any benefits. This review identified two trials in which patients with NRAF who had a stroke were treated with anticoagulant therapy. These studies show that anticoagulants safely reduce the risk of recurrent stroke by two‐thirds, despite a higher chance of major extracranial bleeds. There was no increased risk of intracranial bleeds.

Anticoagulants versus antiplatelet therapy for preventing stroke in patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack

Anticoagulants are more effective than antiplatelet drugs to prevent a second stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. Nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation (NRAF) is a heart rhythm disorder commonly found in patients who have had a stroke. Patients with NRAF have an irregular heart beat. This can cause the formation of a blood clot in the left atrium of the heart. This clot may break away and block a cerebral artery, thus causing a stroke. Patients who have had a stroke in the presence of NRAF have a high risk of another stroke. Anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin, make the blood 'thinner' and prevent the formation of blood clots and hence could prevent stroke. However, anticoagulant drugs may also cause bleeding in the brain and this complication could offset any benefits. Aspirin may be a safer alternative. This review identified two trials in which patients with NRAF who had a stroke were treated with anticoagulants or antiplatelet therapy. These studies show that anticoagulants are superior to antiplatelet agents to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke.

See all (2323)

Summaries for consumers

Anticoagulants for preventing stroke in patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and a history of stroke or transient ischaemic attack

Anticoagulants are beneficial and safe for preventing a second stroke in people with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and recent cerebral ischaemia. Nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation (NRAF) is a heart rhythm disorder commonly found in patients who have had a stroke. Patients with NRAF have an irregular heart beat and this can cause the formation of a blood clot in the left atrium of the heart . This clot may break away and block a cerebral artery causing a stroke. Patients who have had a stroke in the presence of NRAF have a high risk of another stroke. Anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin, make the blood 'thinner' and prevent the formation of blood clots and hence could prevent stroke. However, anticoagulant drugs may also cause bleeding in the brain and this complication could offset any benefits. This review identified two trials in which patients with NRAF who had a stroke were treated with anticoagulant therapy. These studies show that anticoagulants safely reduce the risk of recurrent stroke by two‐thirds, despite a higher chance of major extracranial bleeds. There was no increased risk of intracranial bleeds.

Anticoagulants versus antiplatelet therapy for preventing stroke in patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation and a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack

Anticoagulants are more effective than antiplatelet drugs to prevent a second stroke in people with atrial fibrillation. Nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation (NRAF) is a heart rhythm disorder commonly found in patients who have had a stroke. Patients with NRAF have an irregular heart beat. This can cause the formation of a blood clot in the left atrium of the heart. This clot may break away and block a cerebral artery, thus causing a stroke. Patients who have had a stroke in the presence of NRAF have a high risk of another stroke. Anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin, make the blood 'thinner' and prevent the formation of blood clots and hence could prevent stroke. However, anticoagulant drugs may also cause bleeding in the brain and this complication could offset any benefits. Aspirin may be a safer alternative. This review identified two trials in which patients with NRAF who had a stroke were treated with anticoagulants or antiplatelet therapy. These studies show that anticoagulants are superior to antiplatelet agents to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke.

Stroke liaison workers for stroke patients and carers

Many patients experience depression, anxiety and isolation after a stroke. These post‐stroke problems can lead to subsequent poor health, low mood or increased caring burden. It seems reasonable to expect that providing more emotional and psychological support in addition to appropriate information about stroke and services available might help to reduce anxiety, improve mood and improve health or satisfaction. In this review, we evaluated 16 studies (involving 4759 participants) of healthcare workers or volunteers (a 'stroke liaison worker') providing education and social support (including counselling) and liaison with services. Overall, there do not appear to be any significant benefits for patients in terms of their perceived health, mood, activities or participation. Patients appeared to be more satisfied that someone had really listened to them, and carers appeared to be more satisfied with aspects of the care provided. It also appears that patients with mild to moderate disability may benefit from a reduction in disability and death as a result of the input from the stroke liaison worker. The reason for this is not yet clear and further research is required.

See all (427)

Terms to know

Blood
A tissue with red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other substances suspended in fluid called plasma. Blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and carries away wastes.
Brain
The part of the central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium).
Hemorrhage
In medicine, loss of blood from damaged blood vessels. A hemorrhage may be internal or external, and usually involves a lot of bleeding in a short time.
Oxygen
A colorless, odorless gas. It is needed for animal and plant life. Oxygen that is breathed in enters the blood from the lungs and travels to the tissues.

More about Stroke

Photo of an adult

Also called: Brain attack

Other terms to know: See all 4
Blood, Brain, Hemorrhage

Keep up with systematic reviews on Stroke:

RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...