Stroke patient speaking with Michael Phipps, MD

Stroke is a medical emergency. It is the leading cause of disability and the No. 5 cause of death in the United States. Of the nearly 795,000 people who have one each year (610,000 of which are first or new occurrences), about 140,000 die.

Though it can dramatically alter someone's life, it is treatable and preventable. Know what a stroke is, the symptoms and effects, and what to do if you or someone near you is having an episode. Learn your risk factors, including the ones you can change and those you can't change.

The University of Maryland Medical Center's Comprehensive Stroke Center is a regional center of excellence in stroke care and research.

If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Stroke Causes

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel is partially or fully blocked. The blockage usually results from a blood clot or piece of plaque that travels to the brain and reduces blood flow.

The other type of stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, can occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and starts to bleed.

Blockages usually result from a blood clot or a piece of plaque (a fatty material that clogs your arteries) that travels to your brain and blocks blood flow.

Bleeding from a ruptured blood vessel usually results from an aneurysm, a weak spot in the vessel wall that can bulge and burst.

Loss of blood flow and oxygen causes brain cells to die. The longer it takes to get treatment, the more brain cells die, increasing the risk of permanent damage - and death or disability.

Stroke Symptoms

Although it can affect any function of the body, including movement, vision, hearing, taste and smell, the basic stroke symptoms are similar. Learning them can help you recognize one in yourself or others. The acronym 'BE FAST' can help you remember the signs of a stroke:

  • Balance - Ask if the person feels dizzy or has trouble standing.
  • Eyes - Ask if the person has blurred or double vision.
  • Face - Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops.
  • Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech - Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like, "The sky is blue," and note whether it's correct or speech is confused, slurred or garbled.
  • Time - Call 911 immediately if the person has any or several of these symptoms. Time lost is brain lost.

Call 911 immediately if you or anyone around you has one or more of these symptoms.

Types of Stroke

The main types are hemorrhagic and ischemic.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

This happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. The cause may be an aneurysm; a tangle of blood vessels, called an arteriovenous malformation, that can restrict or stop blood flow; or a break in a blood vessel wall. Hemorrhagic stroke is the least common type of stroke and the most difficult to treat.

Ischemic Stroke

The most common type of stroke,it occurs when blood flow in a vein or artery in the brain is blocked or reduced. It can be caused by a blood clot that forms somewhere else in the body, such as the heart, lungs or legs; from a piece of plaque (fatty material that clogs the arteries) that breaks loose into the bloodstream; or from narrowing of the arteries that reduces blood flow to the brain.

Transient Ischemic Attack

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a short-term ischemic stroke. TIA has the same causes and symptoms as an ischemic stroke but usually lasts a few minutes, although they can last up to 24 hours. A TIA normally causes no lasting side effects. Because you can’t tell whether you’re having a TIA or ischemic stroke, call 911 as soon as symptoms begin.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

At University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, stroke recovery and stroke rehabilitation is a team effort. We work with you and your family to help you return to normal life as much and as soon as possible. As part of the University of Maryland Medical System, you have full access to the total resources of a major academic medical center.

From the moment you arrive until long after you return home, you’ll have a continuum of rehabilitative care as you recover. To speed your rehabilitation, we provide comprehensive services, including physical, occupational, speech-language and recreational therapies, all with 24/7 nursing care.

You’ll benefit from the latest rehab technologies:

  • On-site therapy gym with a kitchen to help you regain cooking and kitchen safety skills
  • Our Healing Garden with varied terrain to improve your independent walking and motor skills
  • An indoor therapy pool for aquatic therapy


Our Telestroke program uses a high-resolution video camera and advanced technology to transmit a patient’s clinical information from a remote hospital to our neurologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. We can remotely examine the patient’s eyes or larger body areas.

Stroke neurologists can also review the patient’s CT scan for a more detailed examination. This technology means patients and families have instant access to specialized care that increases safety and quality. Call the University of Maryland Medical Center's stroke team 410-328-5803 for more on Telestroke consultations.

Call 911
If you think you or someone near you is having a brain attack, call 911 immediately.

Contact Us
If you or a loved need an appointment with a stroke specialist, call 410-328-4323 to make an appointment at the UM Neurology Care Center.

Stroke Certification
A "Get With The Guidelines: Gold Plus" award from the American Heart Association recognizing stroke procedures at the University of Maryland Medical Center.