Stroke Animation

Stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is the rapidly developing loss of brain functions due to a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood supply) caused by thrombosis or embolism, or due to a hemorrhage. In medicine, a stroke, fit, or faint is sometimes referred to as an ictus [cerebri], from the Latin icere ("to strike"), especially prior to a definitive diagnosis.

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Stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurological damage, complications and death if not promptly diagnosed and treated. It is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States and Europe. It is predicted that stroke will soon become the leading cause of death worldwide. Risk factors for stroke include advanced age, hypertension (high blood pressure), previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, atrial fibrillation, migraine with aura, and thrombophilia (a tendency to thrombosis). Blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke.

The traditional definition of stroke, devised by the World Health Organisation in the 1970s, is a "neurological deficit of cerebrovascular cause that persists beyond 24 hours or is interrupted by death within 24 hours". This definition was supposed to reflect the reversibility of tissue damage and was devised for the purpose, with the time frame of 24 hours being chosen arbitrarily. It divides stroke from TIA, which is a related syndrome of stroke symptoms that resolve completely within 24 hours. With the availability of treatments that, when given early, can reduce stroke severity, many now prefer alternative concepts, such as brain attack and acute ischemic cerebrovascular syndrome (modeled after heart attack and acute coronary syndrome respectively), that reflect the urgency of stroke symptoms and the need to act swiftly.

Treatment of stroke is occasionally with thrombolysis ("clot buster"), but usually with supportive care (physiotherapy and occupational therapy) and secondary prevention with antiplatelet drugs (aspirin and often dipyridamole), blood pressure control, statins and anticoagulation

Thrombotic stroke

In thrombotic stroke, a thrombus (blood clot) usually forms around atherosclerotic plaques. Since blockage of the artery is gradual, onset of symptomatic thrombotic strokes is slower. A thrombus itself (even if non-occluding) can lead to an embolic stroke (see below) if the thrombus breaks off, at which point it is called an "embolus". Thrombotic stroke can be divided into two types depending on the type of vessel the thrombus is formed on:
Large vessel disease involves the common and internal carotids, vertebral, and the Circle of Willis. Diseases that may form thrombi in the large vessels include (in descending incidence): atherosclerosis, vasoconstriction (tightening of the artery), aortic, carotid or vertebral artery dissection, various inflammatory diseases of the blood vessel wall (Takayasu arteritis, giant cell arteritis, vasculitis), noninflammatory vasculopathy, Moyamoya disease and fibromuscular dysplasia
Small vessel disease involves the smaller arteries inside the brain: branches of the circle of Willis, middle cerebral artery, stem, and arteries arising from the distal vertebral and basilar artery. Diseases that may form thrombi in the small vessels include (in descending incidence): lipohyalinosis (build-up of fatty hyaline matter in the blood vessel as a result of high blood pressure and aging) and fibrinoid degeneration (stroke involving these vessels are known as lacunar infarcts) and microatheroma (small atherosclerotic plaques).
Embolic stroke

Embolic stroke refers to the blockage of an artery by an embolus, a traveling particle or debris in the arterial bloodstream originating from elsewhere. An embolus is most frequently a thrombus, but it can also be a number of other substances including fat (e.g. from bone marrow in a broken bone), air, cancer cells or clumps of bacteria (usually from infectious endocarditis).

Because an embolus arises from elsewhere, local therapy only solves the problem temporarily. Thus, the source of the embolus must be identified. Because the embolic blockage is sudden in onset, symptoms usually are maximal at start. Also, symptoms may be transient as the embolus is partially resorbed and moves to a different location or dissipates altogether.

Emboli most commonly arise from the heart (especially in atrial fibrillation) but may originate from elsewhere in the arterial tree. In paradoxical embolism, a deep vein thrombosis embolises through an atrial or ventricular septal defect in the heart into the brain.

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