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Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when the blood flow in a vein or artery in the brain is blocked or reduced. It can result from a blood clot that forms in another part the body; from a piece of plaque, fatty material the clogs the arteries, that breaks loose into the bloodstream and forms a blood clot; or from plaque buildup, called atherosclerosis, that narrows the arteries (stenosis) and reduces blood flow to the brain.

Although there is no bleeding in the brain as in hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic strokes can also cause disability or death. The main types of ischemic stroke are:

Thrombotic Stroke

This results from a blood clot, or thrombus, that forms inside an artery supplying blood to the brain. People with high cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) are at higher risk for this type of stroke.

Embolic Stroke

A blood clot, or embolus, from somewhere in the body, like the heart, lungs or legs, travels to the brain and blocks a blood vessel. People with atrial fibrillation comprise about 15% of embolic stroke patients.

Ischemic Stroke Symptoms

As in hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke symptoms happen suddenly and may include:

  • A severe, sudden headache
  • Confusion or trouble speaking
  • Difficulty walking, sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Distorted vision in one or both eyes
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg

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

Ischemic Stroke Diagnosis

With any stroke, time lost is brain lost. Diagnosing the type and location of the stroke as soon as possible is critical to ensure the best treatment and outcome. Stroke specialists at University of Maryland Neurology use advanced imaging such as CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose ischemic stroke.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment

The University of Maryland's stroke specialists treat ischemic stroke with medication and minimally invasive procedures.

Clot-Busting Medication

Depending on their condition, patients may receive the clot-busting medication Alteplase. For the best outcome, patients must receive Alteplase within 6 hours of the stroke occurrence.

Endovascular Clot Retrieval

Combined with Alteplase for eligible patients, this minimally invasive catheter procedure uses a small wire to break blood clots in the brain. Although this is most effective within 6 hours of stroke onset, in some cases it can be effective within 24 hours of onset.

Stroke Recovery

Recovery is relatively similar for all types of stroke. At the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute, we work with you and your family to focus on ability, not disability. We also help you focus on reducing your risk factors to prevent another stroke.

Schedule an Appointment

Schedule a visit with a stroke specialist to assess your risk for stroke. Call 410-328-4323.