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Ischaemic stroke

Steve Smith discusses ischaemic stroke
© University of East Anglia

Ischaemic stroke causes damage by preventing blood supply reaching areas of the brain. In this kind of stroke, a clot causes a blockage in a blood vessel (most often an artery). 80% of strokes are ischaemic.

Treatment for haemorrhagic stroke is aimed at preventing further bleeding and removing or draining the build-up of blood that is pressing on the brain, whereas treatment for ischaemic stroke is aimed at breaking down the clot and restoring blood flow.

It is therefore essential to quickly diagnose which type of stroke has occurred so that the correct treatment approach is taken- ‘time is brain’ encapsulates a campaign to alert us all to recognising signs of stroke, and promptly getting the patient to a specialist stroke centre for a diagnostic brain scan.

Some stroke survivors are not left with noticeable effects, but for other the damage to the brain results in disability, depending on the functions of the affected brain area. Weakness in limbs on the side of the body opposite to the damaged brain area is common, as is impaired speech and understanding verbal and / or written language. Thinking and memory, and the control of impulses may be involved and many survivors of stroke experience psychological problems such as depression.

Stroke is an acute emergency – therefore you might think the condition doesn’t really fit with a course dedicated to long-term neurological disorders. But many stroke survivors do live with long-term effects.

For many of the long-term neurological conditions referred to in this course there is no curative treatment. Symptoms may be managed, and many of the negative effects ameliorated but the process of, for example, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s diseases cannot be halted or revered at the time of writing this (though great strides to this end are being made through relentless research).

Stroke is different in that good early treatment followed by rehabilitation can lead to significant, lasting improvement, sometimes completely restoring functions that had been lost.

© University of East Anglia
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