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Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Disruption in blood flow is caused when either a blood clot blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke).

The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function. Even a brief interruption in blood supply can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen. A loss of brain function occurs with brain cell death. This may include impaired ability with movement, speech, thinking and memory, bowel and bladder, eating, emotional control, and other vital body functions. Recovery from stroke and the specific ability affected depends on the size and location of the stroke. A small stroke may result in problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. Larger strokes may cause paralysis (inability to move part of the body), loss of speech, or even death.

Risk Factors for Stroke

There are a number of factors that may contribute to causing a stroke, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol use (more than 2 drinks per day)
  • Heart disease
  • Heart rhythm disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • High red blood cell count
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms of a stroke may be sudden and include:

  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Problems with vision, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination
  • Problems with movement or walking
  • Loss of consciousness or seizure
  • Severe headaches with no other known cause, especially if sudden onset

All of the above warning signs may not occur with each stroke, so do not ignore any of these symptoms. Even if the symptoms go away, take action immediately.

Other, less common, symptoms of stroke may include the following:

  • Sudden nausea or vomiting not caused by a viral illness
  • Brief loss or change of consciousness, such as fainting, confusion, seizures or coma

Treatment for Stroke

For patients who suffer a stroke, specialists at our Center for Cerebrovascular Diseases. deliver rapid, accurate, and advanced assessment and treatment. Stroke is an emergency, and the greatest chance for recovery from stroke occurs when treatment is started immediately.

There are several treatment options for stroke, and the best treatment will depend on the patient’s age, health, and medical history as well as the severity, location, cause, and type of stroke. In some cases, surgery may be necessary. Several types of surgery may be performed to help treat a stroke, or help to prevent a stroke from occurring, including:

  • Simple and complex intracranial bypass procedures
  • Craniectomy and hemispheric decompression for stroke patients with a large area of brain affected
  • Carotid endarterectomy, skull base approaches to aneurysm clipping, and AVM resection to prevent stroke or stroke recurrence while minimizing disturbance of normal brain tissue
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery to treat AVMs inaccessible by other means
  • Endovascular surgery to treat intracranial aneurysms, AVMs, and extracranial and intracranial obstructions (angioplasty, stenting)

Innovative Stroke Treatment Video

Read the video transcript Innovative and Minimally Invasive Treatments for Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Patients.


Brain Blood Clot Removal Procedure Animation

This video animation demonstrates a mechanical thrombectomy for revascularization to remove a blood clot in the brain. Quick medical treatment to remove the clot is critical to prevent ischemic stroke. Learn more about the Center for Cerebrovascular Diseases.


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