Cerebrovascular Disorders

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Condition: Cerebrovascular disorder refers to a condition that temporarily or permanently limits or blocks blood flow in the brain.

Background: There are different ways blood flow may be restricted or blocked: clots may form (thrombosis); the vessels may narrow (stenosis); there can be a blockage (embolism); or a blood vessel may burst and cause a brain bleed (hemorrhage). Stroke is a type of cerebrovascular disorder, and also the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

Risk Factors: Can be divided in two groups: modifiable – ones we can control and non-modifiable – ones we cannot control. Modifiable ones are high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking and substance abuse. Non-modifiable ones are personal or family history of stroke, older age, gender and race. For example, men also have a greater risk of stroke, as do African-Americans.

History and Symptoms: Symptoms of a stroke include abnormal or slurred speech; dizziness and nausea; severe headache; blurry or double vision; confusion; numbness, weakness on one side—in the face (facial droop), an arm or leg

Physical Exam: The physician will look for the symptoms described above. Additionally, he or she may also conduct other examinations, such as checking a patient’s pulse in several different places to determine if there are any areas with blood flow problems.

Diagnostic Process: There are a number of tests a doctor can order to help diagnosis a cerebrovascular disorder. One is a cerebral angiography. This is a test that takes images of the blood flowing through the arteries in the neck and brain. Imaging tests, such as MRIs or CT scans will likely be ordered.

Rehab Management: The goal of rehabilitation is to help patients relearn and practice skills that may have been lost when the brain was damaged due to limited blood flow, or to learn new ways to perform tasks. A physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician leads a comprehensive rehabilitation team that usually includes a physical, occupational and speech therapist. She or he can help the stroke patients getting back to working and driving, getting the right equipment for home and treating complications associated with stroke such as post-stroke pain and spasticity.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: The American Stroke Association offers many resources that can help patients and families, including an online support network.