Cardiothoracic Surgery Patient Care
Stroke, also known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is an acute neurological injury in which the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. That is, a stroke involves the sudden loss of neuronal function due to disturbance in cerebral perfusion. This disturbance in perfusion is commonly arterial, but can be venous.
The part of the brain with disturbed perfusion no longer receives adequate oxygen. This initiates the ischemic cascade which causes brain cells to die or be seriously damaged, impairing local brain function.
Stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurologic damage or even death if not promptly diagnosed and treated. It is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States and industrialized European nations.
On average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds and someone dies every 3 minutes. Of every 5 deaths from stroke, 2 occur in men and 3 in women.
Risk factors include advanced age, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke.
The term "brain attack" is starting to come into use in the United States for stroke, just as the term "heart attack" is used for myocardial infarction, where a cutoff of blood causes necrosis to the tissue of the heart. Many hospitals have "brain attack" teams within their neurology departments specifically for swift treatment of stroke.