Stroke Information and Overview
Stroke, also called brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked. Stroke is an emergency and should be treated rapidly at a primary stroke center like Barnes-Jewish. The lack of blood supply results in brain cell death and loss of brain function. Without a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, cells will begin to die after just a few minutes. Brain cell death leads to a loss of brain function; possible impairments with movement, speech, thinking, memory and other bodily functions; paralysis; or even death.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, ranking behind diseases of the heart, lungs, and all forms of cancer. According to the National Stroke Association, strokes kill more than 137,000 Americans each year.
Types of Stroke
Stroke can be caused by a thrombosis (blood clot), embolism (blockage) or hemorrhage (bleeding). They can be classified into two main categories:
- 87 percent are ischemic strokes. These strokes are caused by blockage of an artery. When blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked, brain cells begin to die within minutes. Ischemic strokes can be further divided into two groups:
- Thrombotic strokes. These strokes are caused by a blood clot that develops in the blood vessels inside the brain.
- Embolic strokes. These strokes are caused by a blood clot or plaque debris that develops elsewhere in the body and then travels to one of the blood vessels in the brain via the bloodstream.
- 13 percent are hemorrhagic strokes. These strokes are caused by an aneurysm, or other blood vessel abnormality that has ruptured and is bleeding. When there is bleeding into the brain, cells and tissues do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. Hemorrhagic strokes can be divided into two groups:
- Intracerebral hemorrhage. This is bleeding from the small blood vessels within the brain.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage. This is bleeding in the subarachnoid space (the space between the brain and the membranes that cover the brain). Most of this type of bleeding is caused by an aneurysm.
Mini-Strokes (Transient Ischemic Attacks, or TIA)
Before a thrombotic stroke, one or more "mini-strokes," called transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, may occur. TIAs may last for a few minutes or up to 24 hours, and are often a warning sign that a stroke may occur. Although usually mild and transient, the symptoms caused by a TIA are similar to those caused by a stroke. Emergency treatment should be sought for anyone experiencing the symptoms of a TIA.
Recurrent strokes occur in about 25 percent of stroke victims within five years after a first stroke. The risk is greatest right after a stroke and decreases over time. The likelihood of severe disability and death increases with each recurrent stroke. About 3 percent of stroke patients have a second stroke within 30 days of their first stroke, and about one-third have a second stroke within two years.
There are treatments available to potentially reverse stroke. However, stroke symptoms must be recognized and diagnosed early and rapidly. That’s why our Primary Stroke Center has streamlined efforts to rapidly and accurately diagnose stroke patients and start stroke treatment as soon as possible.
If you suspect stroke, call 9-1-1 to activate rapid response services and transport to a Stroke Network hospital.
To find out more about the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Stroke Center in St. Louis, MO, call