A stroke, sometimes referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), cerebrovascular insult (CVI), or colloquially brain attack is the loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This disturbance is due to either ischemia (lack of blood flow) or hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain cannot function normally, which might result in an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, failure to understand or formulate speech, or a vision impairment of one side of the visual field.
Ischemia is caused by either blockage of a blood vessel via thrombosis or arterial embolism, or by cerebral hypoperfusion. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding of blood vessels of the brain, either directly into the brain parenchyma or into the subarachnoid space surrounding brain tissue. Risk factors for stroke include old age, high blood pressure, previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), diabetes, high cholesterol, tobacco smoking and atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke.
A stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurological damage or death. An ischemic stroke is occasionally treated in a hospital with thrombolysis (also known as a “clot buster”), and some hemorrhagic strokes benefit from neurosurgery. Treatment to recover any lost function is termed stroke rehabilitation, ideally in a stroke unit and involving health professions such as speech and language therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Prevention of recurrence may involve the administration of antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, control of high blood pressure, and the use of statins. Some people may benefit from carotid endarterectomy and the use of anticoagulants.