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What is a stroke?

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when:

  • The blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted
  • A blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells

When brain cells no longer get oxygen and nutrients from the blood, they quickly begin to die. 

Types of stroke

There are two types of stroke:

  • Ischemic, which is a blockage of a blood vessel that supplies the brain
  • Hemorrhagic, in which there is bleeding in or around the brain

Symptoms

The symptoms of a stroke include any sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Diagnosis and treatment

Cerebral angiogram

A cerebral angiogram is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine the brain's blood vessels for abnormalities, such as:

  • Aneurysm
  • Malformations
  • Narrowing of the blood vessels

This procedure is done by inserting a small cathether in the blood vessel in the groin (the femoral artery). This catheter is threaded through arteries to reach the neck and brain.

The catheter then delivers contrast dye, while specialized X-ray machines take pictures as the dye travels through the blood vessels. 

These images help determine the most appropriate treatment.

Endovascular intracranial angioplasty and stenting

If narrowing of the blood vessels is seen on a cerebral angiogram, an intracranial angioplasty and stending may be done to widen them.

In this procedure, a small catheter fitted with specialized tools and devices is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin (femoral artery), then threaded through the arteries to reach the neck and brain.

Balloons or stents are then used to reopen the vessels and restore proper blood flow into the brain.

Endovascular thrombectomy

After an ischemic stroke, in which there is a blockage in the blood vessels of the brain, a minimally invasive cerebral angiogram is performed to assess the degree and location of the blockage.

Once the blockage is located, a catheter fitted with special tools is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin (the femoral artery). It is then threaded through the artery to reach the neck and brain. 

A clot retrieval device, stent, chemicals and balloons may be used to remove the blockage and restore proper blood flow to the brain.

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