A cerebrovascular accident
is the medical term for a stroke. A stroke is when blood flow to a part of your
brain is stopped either by a blockage or a rupture of a blood vessel. There are
important signs of a stroke that you should be aware of and watch out for. If
you think that you or someone around you might be having a stroke, it is
important to seek medical attention immediately. The more quickly you get
treatment, the better the prognosis. When a stroke goes untreated for too long,
there can be permanent brain damage.
Types of Cerebrovascular Accident
There are two main types of
cerebrovascular accident, or stroke. An ischemic
stroke is caused by a blockage, and a hemorrhagic
stroke is caused by a breakage in a blood vessel. In both cases, part of
the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, causing the brain’s cells to die.
An ischemic stroke occurs
when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel, preventing blood and oxygen from
getting to a part of the brain. There are two ways that this can happen. When a
clot forms somewhere else in your body and gets lodged in a brain blood vessel,
it is called an embolic stroke. When the clot forms in the brain blood vessel,
it is called a thrombotic stroke.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs
when a blood vessel ruptures, or hemorrhages, which then prevents blood from
getting to part of the brain. The hemorrhage may occur in a blood vessel in the
brain, or in the membrane that surrounds the brain.
Symptoms of a Cerebrovascular Accident
The quicker you can get a
diagnosis and treatment for a stroke, the better your prognosis will be. For
this reason, it is important to understand and recognize the symptoms of a
- loss of balance
speaking or understanding others who are speaking
- numbness or
paralysis in the face, leg, or arm, most likely on just one side of the body
- blurred or
- a sudden
headache, especially when accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
The symptoms of a stroke can
vary depending on the individual and where in the brain it has happened.
Symptoms usually appear suddenly, even if they are not very severe. They may
become worse over time.
Diagnosis of a Cerebrovascular Accident
Your doctor can tell if you
have had a stroke in a number of ways. First, you will be examined. Your doctor
will check your reflexes, vision, speaking, and senses. He or she will also
check for a particular sound in the blood vessels of your neck. This sound,
which is called a bruit, indicates abnormal blood flow. Finally, your doctor
will check your blood pressure, which may be high if you have had a stroke.
Your doctor may also perform
diagnostic tests to confirm a stroke and to pinpoint its location:
- Blood tests: Your doctor may want to test your blood for clotting time, blood sugar
levels, or infection. These can all affect the likelihood and progression of a
By adding a dye to your blood and then taking an X-ray of your head, your
doctor can find the blocked or hemorrhaged blood vessel.
- Carotid ultrasound: Using sound waves to image the blood vessels in your neck helps to
determine if there is abnormal blood flow towards your brain.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan is often performed soon after symptoms of a
stroke develop to find the problem area or other problems that might rule out a
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs can also be used to check for damaged blood
- Echocardiogram: This imaging technique uses sound waves to create a picture of your
heart. It can help to find the source of blood clots.
Treatment for a Cerebrovascular Accident
Treatment for a stroke
depends on the type. In the case of an ischemic stroke, the goal is to remove
the blockage. In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, treatments are aimed at
controlling the bleeding.
To treat an ischemic stroke,
you may be given a clot-dissolving drug or a blood thinner. You may also be
given aspirin to prevent a second stroke. In some cases, emergency treatment
may include injecting medicine into the brain or removing a blockage with
For a hemorrhagic stroke,
you may be given a drug that lowers the pressure in your brain caused by the
bleeding. You may also need surgery, if the bleeding is severe, to remove
excess blood. You may also need surgery to repair the ruptured blood vessel.
After any type of stroke,
there is a recovery period that varies depending on how severe the stroke was.
You may need to participate in rehabilitation because of the effects of the
stroke. This can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, or work with a
psychiatrist, neurologist, or other professionals.
Prevention of a Cerebrovascular Accident
There are many risk factors
for having a stroke. Correspondingly, there are many measures that can be taken
to help prevent them. These preventive measures are similar to the actions that
you would take to help prevent heart disease, and include the following:
- maintain normal
- lmit saturated
fat and cholesterol intake
- refrain from
smoking and drink alcohol in moderation
- control diabetes
- maintain a
- get regular
- eat a diet rich
in vegetables and fruits
If your doctor knows that
you are at risk for a stroke, you may be prescribed medications to prevent one.
These include drugs that thin the blood and prevent clot formation.
Prognosis for a Cerebrovascular Accident
If you suffer from a stroke,
your prognosis depends on the type of stroke, how much damage it causes to your
brain, and how quickly you are able to receive treatment. The prognosis after
an ischemic stroke is better than after a hemorrhagic stroke.
resulting from a stroke include difficulty speaking, moving, or thinking. These
can improve over the weeks, months, and even years after a stroke.
Approximately half of all stroke patients are able to go home and function
without help, while the other half requires care (NIH, 2012).