Ischemic Stroke

Stroke is a brain injury caused by an interruption in blood flow. Brain tissue that does not get oxygen and nutrients from blood can die within minutes. The damage to the brain can cause a sudden loss in bodily functions. The types of function that are affected will depend on the part of the brain that is damaged.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment at UVA

We offer the most advanced stroke interventions at UVA.

A blocked blood vessel requires immediate treatment to restore blood flow to the brain tissue and stop further damage.

    • Embolectomy — removes the clot or deliver clot-dissolving medication directly to the area.
    • Angioplasty
    • Carotid and cerebral stents
    • Intra-arterial thrombolysis
    • Extracranial/intracranial bypass — blood vessel from the scalp reroutes blood supply around the blocked artery

    A stroke can cause swelling in the brain. You may need decompressive surgery, such as craniotomy,  to relieve the pressure in the brain to prevent damage.

    Certain patients will receive a group of drugs called thrombolytics. These medications can rapidly dissolve blood clots. They are often given by IV but can be delivered directly to the arteries where the blood clot is. These medications need to be given within hours after the start of symptoms to be effective. 

    Causes of Stroke

    Two blood flow problems can cause a stroke:

    • A blocked blood vessel causes an ischemic stroke
    • A ruptured blood vessel causes a hemorrhagic stroke
    diagram of ischemic stroke in the brain
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    An ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs when something stops the flow of blood, like:

    • A buildup or swelling of blood vessel walls
    • Something in the blood is stuck in the blood vessel

    Blockage can result of one or more of the following:

    • Atherosclerosis
    • A blood clot that has traveled from other parts of the body such as the neck or heart
    • Inflammation of the blood vessels

    Who is at Risk for Stroke?

    People of African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk.

    Factors that may increase your risk of stroke include:

    • Sex: Men are more likely to have strokes than women, but women are more likely to die of strokes than men
    • Age: Older than 55 years of age
    • Family history of stroke

    Medical conditions that can increase your risk of stroke include:

    • High blood pressure
    • High blood homocysteine level
    • Atherosclerosis
    • High cholesterol levels
    • Diabetes mellitus or impaired glucose tolerance
    • Atrial fibrillation
    • Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and polycythemia
    • Disease of heart valves, such as mitral stenosis
    • Prior stroke or cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack
    • Peripheral artery disease
    • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) — a warning stroke with stroke-like symptoms that go away shortly after they appear
    • Conditions that increase your risk of blood clots such as:
      • Cancer
      • Pregnancy

    Lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of stroke include:

    • Drug abuse from cocaine, amphetamines or heroin use
    • Smoking
    • Use of birth control pills, especially if you are over 35 years old and smoke
    • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy
    • Physical inactivity


    Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.