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Oxfordshire Stroke Rehabilitation Unit (OSRU)

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About Stroke

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A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Strokes are a medical emergency and urgent treatment is essential.The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.
If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Causes of a stroke

Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain injury, disability and possibly death.There are two main causes of strokes:
  • ischaemic – where the blood supply is reduced or stopped because of a blood clot, accounting for 85% of all cases
  • haemorrhagic – where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts

There’s also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted.

This causes what’s known as a mini-stroke, often lasting between a few minutes and several hours.

TIAs should be treated urgently, as they’re often a warning sign you’re at risk of having a full stroke in the near future. Seek medical advice as soon as possible, even if your symptoms resolve.

Certain conditions increase the risk of having a stroke, including:

Treating a stroke

Treatment depends on the type of stroke you have, including which part of the brain was affected and what caused it.

Strokes are usually treated with medication. This includes medicines to prevent and dissolve blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.

In some cases, procedures may be required to remove blood clots. Surgery may also be required to treat brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding in cases of haemorrhagic strokes.

Read more about diagnosing strokes and treating strokes.

Last updated: 15 March, 2019