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If you or a loved one is experiencing stroke symptoms, call 911 and get to the nearest stroke center.

Catholic Health Locations

Kenmore Mercy Hospital
2950 Elmwood Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217
Phone & Hours

Mercy Ambulatory Care Center
3669 Southwestern Boulevard
Orchard Park, NY 14127
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Mercy Hospital of Buffalo
565 Abbott Road
Buffalo, NY 14220
Phone & Hours

Mount St. Mary's Hospital
5300 Military Road
Lewiston, NY 14092
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Sisters of Charity Hospital
2157 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
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St. Joseph Campus
2605 Harlem Road
Cheektowaga, NY 14225
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What is Stroke?

Stroke is the death of brain. Stroke can occur two ways. Either a blood vessel to the brain becomes occluded or a blood vessel to the brain bursts.

What is an Artery?

Arteries are the vessels through which a constant supply of fresh blood is brought to the brain. Think of arteries as the pipes through which blood travels to brain cells. If blood flow is cut off to a particular region of the brain, cells in that region will not be able to carry out their specific task.

What is the Difference Between a Stroke and a Heart Attack?

Heart attacks kill muscle cells that decrease the ability of the heart to pump blood. When brain cells die they may be unique, resulting in permanent loss of a certain function.

What Type of Equipment Do You Need to Treat Stroke?

Sophisticated CT scanners are required to determine if the stroke is caused by a bleed.

There are Two Types of Stroke

   Ischemic - Caused by a Blocked Blood Vessel

   Hemorrhagic - Caused by a Broken Blood Vessel

Ischemic Stroke

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel, or pipe to the brain, is blocked or clogged. A constant supply of blood is required to nourish all brain cells. A steady amount of oxygen, glucose (sugar), and other nutrients is required to prevent brain cell death.

CT Scan, Head
CT scan, head.

CT image of a patient with a large, acute stroke. Note red and yellow areas.
CT image of a patient with a large, acute stroke.

Angiogram showing blocked brain artery.
Angiogram showing blocked brain artery.

Ischemic stroke can occur when deposits of fatty material, calcium, and fibrous tissue form a sticky and hard plaque that can block or narrow the artery. Pieces of plaque that originate in the heart or the arteries in the neck can travel downstream and clog arteries in the brain. This is referred to as embolic ischemic stroke.

MRA (angiogram) of the blood vessels that feed the brain.
MRA (Angiogram) of the blood vessels that feed the brain.

       What is a TIA?

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary stroke with symptoms that last less than 24 hours. The blood clot eventually dissolves and the artery reopens.
  • The severity of TIA depends on the portion of the brain that is denied blood.
  • Often, brain imaging fails to demonstrate any abnormal findings. Typically, embolic stroke is the cause of TIA.

sophisticated equipment for producing three dimensional pictures of blood vessels in the brain.
Sophisticated equipment for producing three dimensional pictures of blood vessels in the brain.

angiogram of a blocked blood vessel in the neck
Angiogram of a blocked blood vessel in the neck.

       Blocked Blood Vessels in the Brain

  • Plaque can also originate in a blood vessel in the brain. This occurs less frequently than embolic stroke and is called thrombotic stroke.

a partial blockage of a main blood vessel to the brain.
A partial blockage of a main blood vessel to the brain.

       Ischemic Stroke Therapy

  • Stroke therapy either opens blocked arteries (ischemic stroke) or repairs burst blood vessels 
  • In the case of ischemic stroke, a doctor needs to open the blocked blood vessel as soon as possible.
  • This can be done with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) which is a drug that breaks up blood clots. tPA is given to patients in their vein in the arm (intravenously). The sooner tPA is given, the more likely the blood vessel is to open and prevent a stroke.
  • A doctor may also use a metal wire device, called a stent retriever, in order to physically unblock an artery. A long flexible tube called a catheter that contains the stent retriever is inserted into the patient's upper thigh and threaded all the way to the arteries in the brain. Then, the device surrounds the blood clot so that it can be pulled out of the  blocked vessel, or pipe. This type of treatment uses the same principle as a plumber when he or she unclogs a pipe using a drain snake.

Major Symptoms of Stroke

  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the arms or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Inability to hold arm upward
  • Facial droop, inability to smile
  • Un-explainable worst headache of life, light is bothersome, neck stiffness  
  • Severe dizziness, loss of balance
  • Loss of normal vision
  • Confusion and problems with speech - can not think of a word, can not say a word

In the case of hemorrhagic stroke, anti-blood clotting or blood-thinning medicines are not used because they would make the bleeding worse. Broken blood vessels may be repaired using metal coils or flow-diverters to patch up the hole. These are also introduced through the patient’s upper thigh. Holes in the blood vessel can be repaired using either catheter-based techniques (operating through small tubes) or open brain surgery. 

Time is Brain

Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke. Therefore, every second counts. Time is brain.
If a stroke is not treated immediately, the death of brain cells will lead directly to loss of function…including paralysis, loss of speech, loss of vision and even death.

Time is brain and patients experiencing stroke symptoms should call 911 immediately and go to the nearest designated stroke center. Acting fast to get medical attention can save a life and limit permanent  disabilities. DO NOT wait to see if symptoms go away on their own.

Risk Factors of Stroke

Variable Factors Fixed Factors
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Heart disease, especially atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Poor diet: high fat, high cholesterol, high salt
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Prior stroke or TIA
  • Age - your chance of stroke doubles every 10 years after the age of 55 for both men and women
  • Hereditary (family history) because some strokes may be caused by genetic disorders
  • Gender - women who smoke and use birth control pills have increased risk of stroke, especially after age 35
  • Race - certain races have a higher likelihood of developing certain blood and vascular conditions which may lead to stroke. For example, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia are more prevalent among African Americans. Hispanics also posses a higher risk of stroke.

Available Catholic Health Services

Hemorrhagic Stroke

There are two ways in which a blood vessel may become weakened and eventually rupture. Hemorrhagic stroke is a bleeding stroke. It occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Blood leaks out of the burst vessel (pipe) and into surrounding tissue. This is harmful because the blood can damage brain tissue. Hemorrhagic stroke also results in brain cell death.

First, a vessel may expand in a way that resembles a balloon filling with water. If the vessel expands too much, it may burst. This is called an aneurysm. Second, blood vessels may form abnormally and become tangled. This is known as an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and these vessels can also become weak enough to rupture.

Hemorrhagic strokes may be intracerebral or subarachnoid. These terms describe the abnormal location of the bleeding. Intracerebral hemorrhages produce bleeding in the tissue of the brain.

In contrast, Subarachnoid hemorrhage spills blood into the spinal fluid that bathes the surface of the brain.