Dr. J Mocco, MD, MS, a cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgeon with clinical interests in stroke, brain aneurysms, subarachnoid hemorrhage, arteriovenous malformations, cavernous malformations, carotid artery stenosis, intracranial stenosis, and brain tumors is no stranger to cerebral injury - but that didn’t make this particular case or ones like any easier.
A recent patient of his, who we will call “John” (for privacy's sake), was sitting with his family at a nice restaurant having dinner. Abruptly, he stood up from the table, cursed and proceeded to collapse.
Upon arriving at the hospital, John couldn't talk, move or doing anything else that was asked of him. As it turns out, John suffered from an intracerebral hemorrhage - the second-most common stroke, but by far the deadliest. For the most part, when people hear the word “stroke,” they think of the most common and more prevalent type known as an ischemic stroke, which is where a blood clot lodges in an artery and blocks the blood flow to the brain, ultimately starving it of oxygen. In Johns case, however, it was an intracerebral hemorrhage, which is a spontaneous bleeding into the brain, likely caused by chronic high blood pressure and/or other conditions that could weaken the walls of the brain's blood vessels, eventually causing them to rupture. The result is pooling blood that, as pressure builds eventually compresses brain tissue.
According to Dr. Mocco, “The brain is the 'computer' that runs the body, controlling your ability to move, lift your arms, walk, and talk. When the part of your brain that corresponds to one of those functions is injured, either by bleeding or by a clot that starves it of oxygen, then that part stops working, and your body cannot function normally.” He goes on to say that “Both types of stroke can result in an inability to move an arm or leg, slurred speech, difficulty talking, and drooping in the face. The biggest difference is that bleeding in the brain is typically associated with a sudden, severe headache—often described as the worst headache of your life—while the blockage of an artery is not. Such warning signs should never be ignored. People with these symptoms should go directly to their primary-care doctor or emergency room for immediate evaluation.” This begs the question though is there any steps that can be taken to prevent it? A devastating disease, studies estimate the up to half of patients who suffer an intracerebral hemorrhage do not survive the first month; while more than half of those who do survive need continuous care. In order to increase your odds of avoiding this terrible disease, the best thing to be done is adopting a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise and healthy diet, all the while keeping a close eye on your blood pressure. Strokes cannot be predicted or ultimately controlled, but we can educate ourselves on how to live healthy lives and what to look out for if the disease shows itself, for acting fast is almost as important as prevention.