The most familiar and most common type of stroke occurs in the brain. But there is another type of stroke known as a spinal stroke that can also cause significant damage in the nervous system.
A stroke is an attack that causes damage to the brain. Nerve cells in the brain get oxygen and food through arteries that carry blood to the brain. If those arteries are blocked, blood flow is limited or stops and that portion of the brain can be damaged in just a few minutes as brain cells die.
A spinal stroke, which is also called spinal cord infarction, is stroke that causes damage to the spinal cord instead of to the brain. Just like the brain, the nerve cells in the spine depend on blood vessels to deliver the oxygen and nutrients they need to live and function.
A stroke can occur due to something that plugs an artery in the brain. This may be the result of a blood clot that forms in the artery in the brain, or due to a blood clot or other debris such as plaque that forms somewhere else in the body and travels to the brain.
Stroke can also occur if a blood vessel in the brain becomes weak and bursts, leaking blood into the brain instead of transporting it where it needs to go. This may be the result of trauma, such as an injury to the head, or due to other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, weak spots in the walls of arteries or the use of blood thinning medications.
Like a stroke, a spinal stroke is the result of a blocked blood vessel. There are two primary blood vessels on the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of the spine. These large vessels feed into a complex system of arteries to provide blood to cells in the spine.
Most spinal strokes are caused by a blockage in the anterior spinal artery. Like in the brain, the blockage may be a blood clot or may be debris such as fat from arteriosclerosis. Spinal strokes may also be caused by a blood vessel that leaks or bursts. High blood pressure is the most common cause of this type of spinal stroke.
A stroke in the brain typically affects the side of the body that is controlled by that portion of the brain.
Common signs of a brain stroke are: