A stroke (cerebrovascular accident [CVA]) is the interruption of blood flow to the brain causing an individual to become dizzy, pass out (lose consciousness) or develop paralysis of part of their body.


There are many causes of stroke. Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) to the brain may be associated with a reduction or blockage of blood flow to certain areas of the brain and may cause a stroke. Bleeding (hemorrhage) into the brain is also an important cause of stroke. Blockage by solid materials (embolism) of the brain's arteries can cause stroke. These materials are often blood clots from the heart or pieces of cholesterol-material from the walls of degenerating arteries. Stroke can also occur in the setting of infection of the brain or its coverings (meninges). Head trauma can also be associated with stroke. Sometimes inflammation of the brain's blood vessels, a condition called vasculitis, is also a cause of stroke.


Treatment should begin as quickly as possible to avoid brain damage. Numerous tests are often necessary to determine the precise cause of the stroke and to guide treatment. CT scans or MRI scans are often necessary to determine the part(s) of the brain involved. Patients who have sustained a stroke due to a blood clot may be treated with medications that prevent further clot formation or actually dissolve existing clots.


A stroke implies loss of function or death to certain areas of the brain. This is in contrast to a transient ischemic attack in which death of brain tissue does not occur. Sometimes, people fully recover from a stroke. In more serious situations, surgery may be needed. In the most severe cases, death may occur.

Related Links

National Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides excellent information for the consumer regarding stroke prevention and treatment.