Cerebrovascular disease is a common cause of stroke, the third leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Strokes are sometimes called a ‘brain attacks,’ because what happens to the brain during a stroke is similar to what happens to the heart during a heart attack. The lack of blood-flow deprives critical brain cells of oxygen and nutrients. The length of time of the inadequate blood-flow will determine the extent and permanence of the damage to the brain.

There are two kinds of stroke.

Ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It results from clogging of the arteries,through a process called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and death of brain cells.

Hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, leading to bleeding in the brain.

Symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment

Who is at risk for an ischemic stroke, what symptoms are experienced, how the problem is diagnosed and how it is treated depends on the underlying cause of the disease, whether it be carotid artery disease, vertebrobasilar insufficiency or some other cause.

Surgery may be required in the case of a hemorrhagic stroke to remove pooled blood from the brain and repair the damaged blood vessel. UC Davis neurosurgeons and neurointerventionalists provide care for hemorrhagic strokes.