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What is a Massive Stroke? - Causes & Symptoms

What is a Massive Stroke? - Causes & Symptoms
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  • 0:04 What Is a Massive Stroke?
  • 1:30 Causes of a Severe Stroke
  • 2:55 Symptoms
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you will learn about a very specific kind of stroke, called a massive stroke. First, you'll learn the proper medical term for one. Then, you'll find out its causes, signs and symptoms.

What Is a Massive Stroke?

Have you ever heard of a massive heart attack? It's a heart attack, but it's the worst kind. It's the one with the highest likelihood of death and, if the person is lucky enough to survive, there are serious long term health consequences.

Well, along those same lines, a person can have a massive stroke. However, the proper medical term for a massive stroke is actually a severe stroke. Stroke, in and of itself, refers to the death of a local section of brain cells as a result of an interrupted blood supply. This usually means that one or more arteries supplying the brain with oxygenated blood is either plugged up or has burst open. This causes subsequent neurological dysfunction as a result.

If the section of the brain that is damaged during the stroke is large enough, this can result in large functional deficiencies and, thus, a severe stroke. Since what 'large' is can be subjective, there is an alternative way to categorize and distinguish a severe stroke from milder forms of stroke.

Numerically speaking, the best way to define a severe stroke is by way of the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. A doctor will use this scale to assess a person's various functions, like language, vision, their ability to move parts of their face, limbs, and other functions. The worse off each function, the higher the score assigned for that function. Once the scores for each function are added up, a total score is given. Total scores between 21-42 are defined as a severe stroke.

Causes of a Severe Stroke

The two major causes of a severe stroke are clogged or burst arteries. When an artery delivering blood to the brain is clogged, usually by a blood clot, and causes a stroke, it is called ischemic stroke. A burst artery that results in stroke is called hemorrhagic stroke.

Any number of conditions can cause one or the other, or increase the risk of either occurring. These conditions and predisposing risk factors include atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty plaques build up and restrict blood flow. Some people have an increased tendency of the blood to clot, such as due to a genetic condition. As one might imagine, high blood pressure is another risk factor for stroke because it damages the blood arteries. Heart disease, such as an irregular heart rhythm, can predispose a person to developing blood clots, as can diabetes.

There are a few behavioral conditions that can elevate the risk of stroke as well. Usually this is because they can damage arteries or lead to some of the conditions we've just discussed. An unhealthy diet, such as one with too much salt, may lead to high blood pressure. A diet high in unhealthy fat may lead to atherosclerosis. Lack of exercise can cause obesity and lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, all of which are risk factors for stroke. Tobacco use can damage the blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Finally, drinking too much alcohol increases blood pressure and it may also harden the arteries.

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