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Stroke. 1997 Oct;28(10):2067-77.

Biophysical mechanisms of stroke.

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Department of Radiological Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, USA.



Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. Although a host of genetic, biochemical, physiological, anatomic, and histological factors have been implicated, to varying degrees, in the pathogenesis of stroke, biophysical factors are believed to play a significant role in the development, diagnosis, and therapy of stroke. The purpose of this review article is to identify, describe, and illustrate these causes and biophysical and hemodynamic mechanisms predisposing a person to stroke, which often form the basis for novel methods of diagnosis and therapy.


This mini-review begins by describing the physical principles that govern the flow of blood through normal and stenosed carotid artery bifurcations. In addition to the tortuosity, curvature, and tensile forces of the carotid artery bifurcation, the effects of biophysical phenomena from flowing blood such as viscous forces, pressure forces, velocity, kinetic energy, momentum, impulse, shear stress, and vibrational displacements exerted by the flowing blood on the vessel wall are conducive to abnormal flow behavior and patterns, degrading the vessel wall and creating the potential for stroke.


Recent advances in the treatment of stroke are based on increasing knowledge of its underlying biophysical mechanisms, as well as on better-publicized advances in imaging instrumentation and procedures for the management and treatment of patients.

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