About Physiatry

Cerebrovascular Disorders

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: clots may form (thrombosis); the vessels may narrow (stenosis); there can be a blockage (embolism); or a blood vessel may burst (hemorrhage). All these events restrict blood flow to the brain. Stroke is a type of cerebrovascular disorder, and also the leading cause of disability in the U.S.  

Risk Factors: The higher a person’s blood pressure, the greater the risk for a cerebrovascular disorder such as a stroke. Other risk factors include older age, family history of cerebrovascular disease, obesity, substance abuse, smoking, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and high cholesterol. Men also have a greater risk, as do African-Americans.

History and Symptoms: Symptoms of a stroke include abnormal or slurred speech; dizziness and nausea; severe headache; confusion; numbness, weakness on one side—in the face, 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 may also 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.

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

For Patients and Families:

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