Stroke (cerebral apoplexy)

Cerebral apoplexy (stroke) is the sudden interruption of blood supply to a specific area of the brain.

Overview

Cerebral apoplexy (stroke) is the sudden interruption of blood supply to a specific area of the brain. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected, a stroke can lead, for example, to paralysis, speech problems or visual impairment. It is an absolute medical emergency if these symptoms appear suddenly.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Paralysis on one side of the body, arm or leg paralysis, often accompanied by sensory disturbances
  • Facial paralysis
  • Speech problems (the patient can no longer pronounce words correctly or can’t speak at all, the ability to understand words can also be lost)
  • Vision impairment, blindness

Other symptoms

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache, disorientation
  • Unsteady gait

Course

Many of the symptoms can improve after a while with therapy. Full recovery, however, is only possible for mild strokes. Some symptoms (paralysis, speech problems, etc.) often persist. If the damage is very serious, a stroke can also lead to death.

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Obstruction of a blood vessel (mostly by a blood clot)
  • Bleeding in the brain (brain haemorrhage)

The lack of blood supply means that the brain tissue no longer receives enough oxygen and dies.

Risk factors

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Ultrasound of carotid arteries
Possible therapies
  • Medication to dissolve the blood clot (“thrombolysis”)
  • Arterial catheterisation: Very thin tubes are inserted into a vein in the groin and guided to the blocked artery in the skull where the blood clot is removed or dissolved
  • Operation (mechanical removal of blood clot)
  • Rehabilitation and physiotherapy after a stroke

What can I do myself?

When to see a doctor?

  • On suspicion of a stroke, the doctor or emergency services must be called immediately (emergency number 144). In particular for:
    • Sudden paralysis
    • Sudden speech problems

The time frame for successfully restoring blood flow is only three to four-and-a-half hours (“time equals brain cells”).

Further information

Swiss Heart Foundation (Schweizerische Herzstiftung)
www.swissheart.ch

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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