Stroke Education
The Stroke Network

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A stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is most often due to a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain (ischemic) or when a blood vessel in the brain leaks, causing blood to spill in the surrounding spaces of the brain tissue (hemorrhagic) resulting in damage to the affected part of the brain. Click here to read the definitions of stroke terms. 

Injury to the brain tissue can result in many serious physical and cognitive deficits.  Click here to read a more comprehensive list of potential deficits.  How a person recovers from a stroke depends on the area of the brain involved and the extent of damage done. Stroke is one of the common causes of disability in adults and is the third leading cause of death in the country.

Left Brain Stroke: The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. Damage to the left side of the brain can weaken or paralyze the right side of the body, and may cause problems with speech and with the understanding of spoken and written language.

Right Brain Stroke: The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Damage to the right side of the brain can weaken or paralyze the left side of the body and may cause lack of awareness and neglect of the left side of the body.

Cerebellar Stroke: The cerebellum is the area of the brain that regulates all movements and maintains balance. It coordinates movements and speech muscles. Damage to the cerebellum can cause lack of balance or coordination on the same side of the body. It can also cause slurring of speech.

Brain Stem Stroke: The brain stem is a very delicate area attached to the spinal cord by thick nerve fibers. It controls life-sustaining functions such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. Damage to this part of the brain can cause serious impairment in this life- sustaining functions. Symptoms of dizziness, slurred speech and double vision are also common. It may also cause paralysis on both sides of the body.  Click here for more information about brainstem stroke.  

Aneurysm: Also known as a hemorrhagic stroke.  The brain gets its blood supply from arteries known as the Circle of Willis. It is located at the base of the brain and is a loop of arteries that join in a circle then send branches out to all parts of the brain. These arteries deliver nutrition (glucose and oxygen) to the brain cells.  The junctions where these arteries come together can form weak spots. These weak spots can balloon out and fill with blood, creating the outpouchings of blood vessels known as aneurysms. These sac-like areas may leak or rupture spilling blood into surrounding tissues.

Mini-stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is a warning sign that can occur before a major stroke. A mini-stroke or TIA occurs when there is a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain. There is no permanent damage to the brain. The signs of a TIA are similar to those of a stroke but they usually last less than 24 hours. If you know of anyone having signs or symptoms of a stroke or TIA, CALL 911. Do not wait, rest or go to sleep hoping your symptoms will go away. Immediate medical attention may prevent further disability and save someone¡¯s life.

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Original date 3/1/96 Revised 11/24/08



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