What is a brain stem stroke?
The brain stem stroke regulates breathing, eye movement, facial movement, heart rate, and blood pressure. Sitting just above the spinal cord, the brain stem controls your breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure. It also controls your speech, swallowing, hearing, and eye movements. Impulses sent by other parts of the brain travel through the brain stem on their way to various body parts.
We’re dependent on brain stem function for survival. A brain stem stroke threatens vital bodily functions, making it a life-threatening condition. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off, a stroke occurs because the blocked artery or blood vessels are leaking. The brainstem is located at the base of the brain and is responsible for receiving and transmitting information throughout the body.
The brain stem regulates essential bodily functions, namely:
- Eye movement
- Facial movement and sensation
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Brain stem strokes affect a person’s basic bodily functions and can lead to chronic problems.
Symptoms of brain stem stroke
Dizziness and loss of balance are common symptoms of a stroke. Because the brain stem regulates different types of motor functions, strokes in this area of the brain can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Brainstem strokes affect important bodily functions, including:
- Heart rate
The brain stem receives different signals from the brain and sends them to different parts of the body. Brainstem strokes interrupt these signals, so people may experience physical symptoms, such as numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs.
Other common symptoms of a stroke:
- Loss of balance
- Blurred or double vision
- Trouble speaking or swallowing
Stroke syndromes of the brain system
Some stroke syndromes of the brain system have an unrelated set of symptoms because their control is in small concentrated areas of the brain system that share the same blood supply.
Ondine’s curse: Ondine’s curse due to a lower spinal injury affects voluntary breathing.
Weber syndrome: Weber syndrome is a stroke of the midbrain that causes weakness in the front of the body, which is accompanied by weakness of the eyelids and weakness of eye movements.
Blockage syndrome: Blockage syndrome affects strokes and leads to complete paralysis and inability to speak, the ability to move consciousness, and intact eyes. This may be due to a very abnormal salt and fluid balance.
Wallenberg syndrome: Also known as a lateral spinal syndrome, Wallenberg syndrome causes sensory deficits of the face on the same side as stroke and sensory deficits of the body.
Types of brain stem stroke
There are two main types of strokes, both of which affect the brain stem:
- Ischemic strokes occur when blood clots form in narrow arteries in the head or neck and cut off the blood supply to an area of the brain.
- Ischemic strokes are the most common type, accounting for 87% of all strokes. About 10% of all ischemic strokes affect the brain stem.
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke or warning stroke, when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted. TIAs cause milder symptoms than full ischemic strokes, and most symptoms clear up within an hour.
Brain-vascular hemorrhagic accident:
- Brain bleeding or hemorrhage occurs when weak blood vessels leak or open, creating swelling and pressure. This stress damages the tissues and cells of the brain.
- Hemorrhagic strokes are less common than other types of strokes but account for 40 percent of all stroke deaths.
Risk factors of brain stem stroke
High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke. Anyone can have a stroke, but specific genetic factors such as family history, gender, race, and age put some people at higher risk for stroke than others. Women have more strokes than men and are more likely to die from a stroke than men.
Some risk factors specific to women:
- Use of hormone replacement therapies
- Long-term use of birth control pills in combination with other risk factors such as smoking
- The pregnancy
- People of African American and Hispanic descent are also at risk for stroke.
- Most strokes occur in people over the age of 65. However, research suggests that the rate of stroke hospitalizations and the presence of risk factors for stroke in young children has increased significantly.
Medical conditions that increase the risk of stroke:
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- is blackberry
- Heart disease (CVD)
- Lifestyle risk factors
People cannot control genetic factors, but they can control lifestyle factors that increase the risk of stroke. Behaviors that increase the risk of high blood pressure or clotting increase the risk of stroke.
Behaviors that increase the risk of stroke:
- Smoke tobacco
- Excessive drinking
- Consumption of illicit drugs
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of food
Diagnosis of brain stem stroke
Brain stem stroke is a fatal medical emergency. If you have symptoms that indicate a stroke, your doctor may order imaging tests such as an MRI, CT scan, Doppler ultrasound, or angiogram. The cardiac function test may include an EKG and an echocardiogram. Additional diagnostic procedures may include blood tests, as well as kidney and liver function tests.
Treatment for brain stem strokes
When an ischemic stroke occurs, the first line of treatment is clotting or drawing the blood. If a stroke is diagnosed quickly, blood thinners can be given. If possible, a catheter can be used to clot during a procedure called an embolectomy. In some cases, angioplasty and stenting are used to widen and keep the artery open. Bleeding For a stroke, the bleeding must stop.
Sometimes a clip or coil is placed over the aneurysm to stop the bleeding. Medications to reduce clotting may also be needed. During this time, your medical team will need to take extra steps to keep your heart and lungs working. Brain stem stroke is a medical emergency. You need immediate treatment to save lives and reduce the risk of permanent complications.
Treatment depends on the type, location, and severity of the stroke:
Ischemic stroke: In the treatment of ischemic stroke, blood flow is restored through clotting. The methods include the following:
- Anticoagulant drugs, such as tissue plasminogen activator (T-PA), help dissolve clots and restore blood flow to the affected area.
- Antiplatelet drugs such as warfarin. The doctor may prescribe aspirin if a person has a lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke and bleeding. Current guidelines do not recommend the use of aspirin as in the past.
- Endovascular therapy, which is a surgical procedure that involves the use of mechanical reclaimers to clot the blood.
- Other devices, such as balloons or stents, can be used to open narrow blood vessels and improve blood flow.
Brain-vascular hemorrhagic accident: Treatment of hemorrhagic strokes focuses on controlling bleeding and reducing stress on the brain. Treatment methods:
- Give medicine to control blood pressure and prevent seizures.
- Spiral embolization, which is a surgical procedure that helps blood to clot in a weakened vessel. Clotting reduces bleeding and prevents blood vessels from reopening.
- Once bleeding in the brain has been controlled, doctors can perform surgical procedures to prevent the ruptured blood vessel from bleeding again.
Prevention of brain stem strokes
It is estimated that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. People can reduce their risk of stroke by making the following lifestyle changes:
- It controls the levels of lipids and cholesterol
- Control blood pressure with medications and behavior changes
- Manage medical conditions like diabetes
- Give up smoking
- Eat a diet low in fat and sodium
- Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week
- Restoration and perspective
- Brain stem stroke can lead to serious chronic problems. Medications and behavior changes can help reduce the risk of future strokes.
- Physical therapy improves muscle strength and coordination and ultimately helps people regain lost motor skills.
- Speech and language and occupational therapy can help people improve their cognitive skills, such as memory, problem-solving, and judgment.
- Some people with stroke and severe disabilities need counseling to adjust.