Can Brain Surgery Treat a Stroke?

On July 7th, 2017

Neurosurgeons perform surgery to treat some strokes. Strokes can be treated in various ways. Doctors decide on a course of action by considering a patient’s age, health and the type of stroke they had. Every surgery has benefits and risks that doctors and patients need to weigh.

Woman holding brain model against head isolated on white background

Surgery to Treat an Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke is when plaque, a fatty substance, accumulates and narrows arteries, cutting off the blood supply to the brain. This condition is called atherosclerosis. The plaque slows blood flow and can cause clots to form.

If the carotid arteries, those in the neck, are blocked, a surgeon may recommend surgery to clear the blockage. During this procedure, the neurosurgeon removes the plaque that has built up.

Ischemic strokes have other causes besides atherosclerosis. They include:

  • Heart attack
  • Injury to blood vessels in the neck
  • A problem with blood clotting
  • Heart valve problems
  • An irregular heartbeat

Ischemic strokes may be one of two types:

  1. Thrombotic strokes are when a blot clot forms in an artery that sends blood to the brain.
  2. Embolic strokes are are caused by a clot that originates somewhere else in the body then moves through vessels to the brain stopping the flow of blood.

Some symptoms of ischemic strokes are:

  • Sudden weakness and numbness in the leg, arm or face. These symptoms may affect only one side of the body.
  • Double vision or loss of vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, trouble walking or with balance or coordination
  • Trouble speaking or comprehending speech

Surgery to Treat Hemorrhagic Strokes

A hemorrhagic stroke is when bleeding in the brain causes damage. An aneurysm, a weak spot in a blood vessel, that breaks is sometimes the cause of these types of strokes. Another cause of hemorrhagic stroke are abnormal blood vessels, also called arteriovenous malformation.

Bleeding may happen between the brain and the skull. When that happens, it is called a subarachnoid hemorrhage. During an intracerebral hemorrhage the bleeding is inside the brain.

Treatment for these types of strokes include:

  • Draining the blood around or in the brain
  • Repairing the brain aneurysm
  • Removing or blocking abnormal vessels that caused the bleeding

Symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke are often severe and sudden. They include:

  • An intense headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vision problems
  • Light sensitivity

Strokes are a serious and life-threatening condition. If you think you are having a stroke, call 911. Speak to your primary care physician to discover if you have risk factors for stroke.

Dr. Todd Kuether is a neurosurgeon in Portland, Oregon. He helps patients who need brain surgery or spinal surgery. His expertise includes endovascular aneurysm and stroke treatment. To make an appointment, please contact his office.

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